Is Barnegat Bay Safe After Hurricane Sandy? The Real Dangers of Barnegat Bay.

BARN3“Hurricane Sandy may have wiped out a lot of property and caused a lot of expensive damage, but from an ecological standpoint, the ravages of the storm may have inadvertantly swept out a lot of the hidden dangers of that silty bay.  The people around the area have suffered terribly, but the Barnegat Bay itself may have been cleaned up a bit on the molecular level.  Now the real danger is the large debris and I suggest that vacationers steer clear of the area for a few years.”  [Antonio LaVista PhD, Marine Biologist and Marine Naturalist from Venice, Italy, Istitutiti di Modena Maritimo]

The big news this year among the sun-spotted and beach-loving folks of New Jersey, USA, centers around the current condition of the state’s big swimming and boating vacation sludge basket — the Barnegat Bay.

It seems that 2012’s Hurricane Sandy washed a lot of big debris into what was already a pretty yucky body of water, and suddenly a few cars and houses start getting dragged out of the depths and everybody is up in arms and getting a big league education.  It took a big storm to make the people of New Jersey realize that Barnegat Bay was washed up long before Hurricane Sandy made a valiant but misguided attempt to re-washed it.

“The bay is not safe for the time being and I have to think of another place to bring my kids this summer,” said Conner Soden, a saavy local who looks forward each year to crabbing and swimming and booze cruising on the brimy body of water that sits between the New Jerey mainland and the barrier Islands that are the home to a lot of beach resorts — namely Seaside Heights — the home to MTV’s “Jersey Shore” and a few new zombie movies in the making.

“The kids like to go tubing and crabbing and it’s going to be hard to tell them that this year is either off or it’s going to be a heck of a lot different.  They’re pulling cars and parts of houses out of that water and I think it’s dangerous.  I’m thinking of taking my wife and my kids and my 22-foot Crownline down to Virginia Beach this year.  Catch some blue claws, ya know?”barn11

Dangerous?  Now people think Barnegat Bay is dangerous because a few cars have been pulled out of it? In truth, however, the bay has been dangerous for decades, and a few castaway cars, houses and boats are the least of the problems.

What kind of strong stomachs would eat an oily crab from this mudhole and who would want to even swim there?  If anything, the surge of Hurricane Sandy probably cleaned up Barnegat bay more than it dirtied it.  Sadly, however, nature’s chance for an Al Gore moment, washed away the hard work and hopes and dreams of a lot of people whose homes and lives got washed away in the fury of the storm.barn2

“So you have some big chunks of stuff in there — big deal. You can always haul it out.” said a local crane operator. “Hopefully the force of the storm pulled away some of the real hidden dangers of Barnegat bay — the filthy muck and mire that lines the bottom of that giant mudhole.  Years of factory contamination and cancer-causing chemicals got stirred up. Hey, the truth hurts, but somebody has to tell the people. I notice already that the bay water itself is a whole lot cleaner, but you got to remember that a lot of the silt got churned up and that’s where the bad stuff usually hides out.”

Diver Mike Sonta has been in the bay, locating homes and boats. State officials said there are about 1,400 vessels, 58 homes and eight cars still in Barnegat Bay. All have to pulled out by this summer because they pose a threat to anyone in the water.

“Everything you can imagine on land is in the water,” Sonta said.

Okay so this guy Mike Sonta is actually doing the scientific thing.  He locates the bare bones stuff that needs to be hauled out of there because a family boat doing 33mph on the bay could actually hit part of a house and then somebody loses an eye, and the fun is all over.  But for every smart guy like Mike Sonta, there are a few thousand mindless Barnegat bay lovers who don’t understand the following facts about the beloved body of water where they love to crab and jet ski and boat and swim and tube and barbecue and booze it up on those beloved New Jesey weekends.

Here are a few facts you need to know about Barnegat Bay as told to by experts in their field.

1) Barnegat Bay is a swamp. One instantly notices the difference between the ocean and the bay in spite of the fact that the two bodies of waters are only yards apart at certain points.   The Mid-Atlantic ocean to the east of the bay is a deep inky blue, but Barnegat Bay is a gritty yellow-brown?  It’s brown because it’s a mudhole — think of it as a giant puddle running out from a forest.   It’s a low-lying, methane gas producing estuary that fills with brackish water that is stained brown from pine oils that seep from the roots of the neighboring evergreen forests that are native to the New Jersey pine barrens. Thankfully the pesticide levels are the lowest they’ve been in decades and a lot of water fowl have returned.  We are encouraged to see pelicans back on the southern tips of the barrier islands.  They don’t actuallybreed here but they come to eat.  In one way it’s good news for the pelicans but there is another aspect to this that is troublesome.  If the fish pelicans like to eat are here, it also means that the fish sharks like to eat are here too. 

The Pine Barrens of New Jersey — about 70 miles from midtown Manhattan — are the largest natural earthen sponges of fresh water on the entire east coast of the USA. The Pine Barrens hold so much water that New Jersey is one of the few states in the USA that could withstand a sustained drought.  The southern part of New Jersey is a giant bog and the water is actually drinkable once you filter it and clean it up. [Angelique Cousteau PhD, Marine Biologist]

2) Very little new water comes into Barnegat Bay and very little old water goes out.  The bay’s water is contaminated by eveything you can think of that man has made since the industrial age began and perhaps even before.  In fact, some of the poor man’s “beaches” created inland by Barnegat Bay — places like Money Island — are considered to be the filthiest and most polluted beaches in the USA.  Just look it up — you’ll see.  It’s also full of motor oils and  street runoff, and so much old 19th and 20th century industry left behind all kinds of the worst pollutants.  The area around the Barnegat Bay has had its infamous “cancer clusters” and I know that I wouldn’t want to raise a kid there.  Oddly, New Jerseyans seem oblivious to the fact that their beloved Barnegat Bay is a disaster in the verge of becoming a SuperFund site if things continue as they have been since the early 1990s. [Monroe Taylor, PhD, Marine Cartographer and an expert in silt pollution.]

3) The cleanest part of the whole bay is the inlet at the famous Barnegat lighthouse.  The reason it’s clean is that the force of the ocean current coming and going twice a day, keeps the area pretty fresh, but while the water might seem cleaner there, other dangers lurk and therein lies an accident waiting to happen.  There are sharks in that bay — mostly small ones measuring five feet or less, but you have your big ones too.  [Chinley O’Connor PhD DVM,  shark biolgist and veterinarian]

Sharks!  Yes, there are sharks in the Barnegat bay — usually not big ones — but sharks just the same.  It’s amazing how there haven’t been any shark attacks in the bay for almost a century, in spite of the fact that the areas around the ocean inlets to the east and the river inlets to the west are loaded with sharks, and the old men who have fished these waters for decades know and understand the situation.

“There is so much boating activity in the area that sharks are probably wary of most populated areas,” said Bert Horvath, a local fisherman and birdwatcher with over 50 yers experience on the bay.

“Nobody swims at the mouth of the Barnegat Inlet.  I’m pretty sure that if anyone swam there — if they could survive the rolling current — they’d have a pretty good chance of getting hit by a good-sized bull shark or mako.  It’s not like big sharks have never been seen or fished out of the bay, it’s just rare.  They don’t bite on lures or bait.  They’re pretty smart fish who avoid areas where boats churn up the shallow water.  But they are there in decent numbers, and one day there’s going to be  a serious attack and that’ll be the end of that. 

“Used to be no appreciable amounts of pelican stock here since back in the late 1800s but the pelicans are back big time and you can bet that if the pelicans are back, the kind of fish  that attract the big sharks are back too.  I have seen a few 12-foot or bigger great whites near the inlet but they usually bolt back out to sea as soon as the brackish bay water hits their gills.  They don’t like that or it hurts them or something, but I have seen a few break the surface — I saw two last summer but you can’t go around screaming about sharks down here because the businessmen will have a holy fit.  Your biggest  shark threat in Barnegat Bay overall would be the bull sharks.  They might be only four or five feet, but they’re usually the ones who will travel into the bay and as far up as the Kettle Creek and the Toms River.  Last year a guy fished a 6 foot bull out from the lagoon behind his house in Kettle Creek and that’s about 7 miles up and a quarter mile inland from the Barnegat Inlet.  The famous story about the shark attacks in Matawan Creek back in 1916 — that had to be a bull about that size but the great white gets all the press.”

TheDamienZone was a little freaked out to hear this — but wait — there’s more.

4) Crabs bite your feet and can get you a bad case of tetanus, but beware most of all of the mighty Bluefish!  Yes, the lowly, greasy, stinky blue fish. They like to bite —  and Barnegat Bay is loaded with them.  They are the piranhas of the sea, and while there has never been a case of a living human being eaten alive by a bunch of gobbling blues, bluefish bites are very common in New Jersey.

bluefish“The Barnegat Bay bluefish are smallish compared to the open water blue fish, but pound for pound the blues are the most vicious predators in the sea,” continued Horvath.  “If you get a long hot dry spell and the blues get hungry enough, they’ll get you.  Did you ever see the ocean boil when a bunch of blues run head on into a school of mullet or mackeral.  It’s a holy terror.”

According to marine biologists, a 10-pound bluefish can easily bite off a finger, and if you like to bathe in the nude — although it’s not allowed anywhere in the bay — a bluefish can and will mistake your thingy for a fishy and bite it off.  It has happened — and bluefish can get a whole lot bigger than 10 pounds.  In fact, many blues pulled out of the ocean off of New Jersey tip the scales at nearly 30 pounds and they have teeth like giant razors. If a bunch of bluefish wanted to kill a man, they could, but mostly they are scavengers who know what fish they like to eat and they know how to find them.

“If you are going to swim in places like Tices Shoal (a famous boating and boozing hang out near the Barnegat lighthouse) make sure your little kids wear something.” said Dr, Dean Traherne MD, a physician and weekend angler. 

“It’s cute to dip your birthday-suit baby boy in the water but a hungry blue might bite him and take along a prized piece of a human male.  It sounds like a joke or a prank but it’s a fact and anyone with a baby should never dip the child into the water without a bathing suit of some kind.  A bluefish can leave you with a nasty infected bite and perhaps a few missing parts.” has done some heavy duty research on this subject and blue fish, when they are on the prowl will bite anything.  Seasoned fishermen know that when blues start a feeding frenzy, you don’t even need bait.

“Just the shimmering glint of a shiny hook is enough to get a big bite.  Little blues are just as ravenous as big blues and their teeth are just as sharp.  Poeple don’t like to think about these things, but how many cut up feet in the ER are blamed on jagged clam shells when the real culprit is usually a crab or a hungry bluefish?” [Angelique Cousteau, PhD.]

Okay, so now you have a brief lesson about Barnegat Bay.  So what good does it do you?  Well, you can stop swimming there and go to real beaches.  New Jersey has a whole lot of really nice ones.  You can stop eating the fish and crabs you catch there and you can stop complaining about sunken cars and give the bay a few years to clean itself up with the help of men and machines.

Hurricane Sandy may have hurt a lot of nice people, but in the long run, it may have been Barnegat Bay’s best friend because it cleaned it up a bit and it raised public awareness about how dirty and dangerous it really was in the first place.



23 thoughts on “Is Barnegat Bay Safe After Hurricane Sandy? The Real Dangers of Barnegat Bay.

  1. Since Rob hasn’t answered the idiot DDM, I will.

    You mix natural situations like crabs, bluefish, sharks and water tinted by the pristine Pine Barrens with scare tactics like silt build-up, and hurricane debris to paint a very distorted picture.
    The truth is that in the 45 years I have lived in this area the only reported bluefish bite is when an angler tries to get one off the hook barehanded. They are strong fighters when on the line and fun to catch though.
    Yes, a crab may bite your bare foot but that can happen anywhere in the world where there’s crab and there are normally no problems afterward.
    There are sharks in waters throughout the world, why focus on Barnegat Bay except for sensationalism.
    I have kayaked the evergreen tree tinted creeks and bay for a long time, most of the waters feeding Barnegat Bay and bays to the south are very clean.
    Regarding hurricane debris, yes there’s some in the bay being quickly cleaned up by state and federally contracted agencies but much of it actually ended up in the westward marshes where it is a hazard to no one.
    The only thing you wrote about of concern is the bay’s water exchange with the ocean. The exchange does happen twice daily with the tides. Yes, we would like it to be more of an exchange but it does happen and the water is safe to swim in as my cancer and disease free family can attest to.
    If you really knew the area you would know this is all true. Instead of sensationalizing the situation here why don’t you move on to something you know about. THIS IS WHY YOU ARE AN IDIOT!

  2. Bayview — DDM is not a PERSON — DDM is Damien Direct Mail. The email address of this website.

    The piece was edited together using information put together using the input of several environmental scientists and experts.

    Money Island (a Barnegat Bay “beach”) and Beechwood Beach were both listed in the top ten FILTHIEST beaches in North America. Money Island has been removed from the list but only because it is no longer listed as a beach — otherwise it would still be there. Also on the top ten list was another “beach” in the Toms River/Barnegat Bay area. In the 1970s there were more childhood cancers in Toms River than in any community in all of the AMERICAS –north/south and central.

    Where do you come off calling it sensationlization simply because you are blessed with a healthy family? One would think you’d be a little more humble for your good fortune and less inclined to pound your chest like some demented gorilla protecting his territory?

    You don’t OWN Barnegat Bay and your kids are fine, but have you ever taken time away from your kayaking to read the book “Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation” by journalist Dan Fagin? Of course not. You’re too busy pulling hooks out of the mouths of bluefish and talking up your neighborhood. Here’s a word for you — PROVINCIALITY — look it up.

    And you say that Westwood Marshes are not a threat to anyone? Whoa!

    The $91 million cleanup at the Ciba-Geigy site ( a superfund site) in Toms River began in 2004. It was such an attraction that a viewing platform was built for locals to watch the dredging. It ended in 2010. Recovery wells began treating groundwater in 1996. The pumps will run at full throttle until 2025. In other words, it will take 31 years to get the groundwater in the area around Barnegat Bay ( where they are building more and more homes) to pass a test wherein the water will be safe, but even still, it will only meet minimum standards. Did you know that?

    ALL of what your reading now was left out of the article so as to not be SENSATIONAL about Barnegat Bay, but now that you want to butt heads and offer your quaint anecdotes and personal attacks, we may as well pull all the pieces down.

    The advocacy group OCEAN OF LOVE was formed to help Ocean County children with cancer, Ocean of Love, is still active. Why don’t you call Eddie Cantaloupo and tell him about how healthy your kids are — I’m sure he would be happy to hear it.

    Also, you know nothing about bluefish — and even less about sharks. Have you read, “Barnegat Bay, a Story of Peril? Here’s something you might want to read too.

    Listen, this website was designed to expose human stupidity and dumbness and thanks to you, it can now add territorialism, provinciality and poor reading comprehension to the list of basic problems that add to the oceans of human dumbness.

  3. Yes, I am very aware of the issues you mention. It still doesn’t lend enough creditability to your claims. One can search for articles to back any point of view and write the kind of tripe you do. Yes, call it territorialism but at least I know personally of what I speak – do you? Or do you just search the web to confirm your infinite wisdom born of your conviction of “oceans of human dumbness”? Let me know when you are man enough to set your trembling little feet into Barnegat Bay, I’d like to be there to see the fear in your eyes.

  4. You dismiss patently clear proof — BECAUSE — YOU CANNOT LEARN. Stick with your shitty job — you’re no marine biologist or biochemical scientist.

  5. Well, well, the trembling little wizard of oz behind the curtain speaks again. I never claimed to be a marine biologist or biochem scientist but I have closely read about all the “scary” topics in your hatchet job article long before you climbed out from under wherever you were hiding.
    While you do have a valid point of view on parts of what you wrote, most of it is BS, but you know that don’t you little wizard?

  6. Where do you imagine for one second that I am trembling? I am a wizard — yes, that’s very true — but hardly trembling. Kindly get a grip. Does the Barnegat Bay sign your paycheck? Stop annoying me.

  7. Wizards of your ilk tremble when exposed for what they are. If you’re not trembling then you are a frog scum. I’m glad to hear I’m bothering you.
    Why don’t you write for Before It’s News? They seem to like hyped up crap there too.

  8. What did you expose me as being inasmuch as it would make me tremble? Listen, Bayview, I think you have some kind of psychological thing going on here. You’re imagining that you’re lording over me or something, when in fact, I think you’re silly. You know who you remind me of in many ways — Leroy — the janitor played by Henry Jones in the movie, The Bad Seed. Yes, that’s it. I’m Rhoda Penmark and you’re Leroy the janitor. Now look at what I’ve done — you’ll have to go and rent the movie. Here is a snippet —

  9. I’ve seen the movie. It doesn’t surprise me at all that you liken yourself to the unscrupulous evil miscreant Rhoda. Smart and mean sums it up nicely for you. Like her, you need to be eliminated like a pusillanimous virus.
    Now that you have exposed yourself for what you are go home little Rhoda, your mom is looking for you.

  10. I need to be eliminated? Listen, you don’t threaten to harm me and think you’re going to get away with that — last warning — do not respond to this. This is a warning — DO NOT RESPOND. I am not joking with you. If you respond I will have you arrested in three seconds — shut up and go away — this is your last warning. I am giving you a break — DO NOT EVER WRITE BACK — EVER!

  11. Ignoring the way the conversation degenerated, I have to say that I agree with both sides of the argument here, although one side more than the other.

    Yes, the Barnegat Bay is polluted and needs help. We have a fertilizer law and massive conservation efforts underway for a reason. Oyster Creek wouldn’t be slated for closing if it wasn’t causing problems. I don’t know much about the industrial history of the bay or the specific polluted beaches (I probably should), but I do know that based on what I’ve read, seen, and heard, it’s not in a good state (although it is supposedly getting slightly better, it’s got a long way to go). Some debris in the bay is most definitely the least of it’s problems right now.

    On the other hand, I agree with Bayview that you’re mixing natural properties of the bay with man made pollution to give your story more bite and sensation than is actually warranted. Sure there are some natural hazards/unpleasantries in the bay, like sharks and blue fish and crabs and the smell that comes along with any moderately stagnant body of water, but those are all perfectly natural, and one could argue incredibly beautiful and awe inspiring features, as opposed to pollution, which is awful on all accounts. All natural places have things that we don’t like about them or that pose us some level of danger, like slightly to extremely dangerous wild animals and biting insects and parasites and the extremes of the natural elements in general, but these are all things that humans cherish and respect about these places, that they are natural and wild and untamed. It may come as a surprise, but even on the coast of the most densely populated state in the country, there is such a place in the form of the barnegat bay. That is why it’s pollution is so heartbreaking, not because people are oblivious to all of it’s natural dangers, but because it is a natural place that has been thrown out of whack by human development. Obviously this development has been going on for a long time, and so it’s not a new heartbreak, but it is a heartbreak none the less, and with good reason.

    So yea, the first part of the article, spot on, the second, not so much. I can see why a native such as Bayview would have taken offense in such a guttural way. I’m a native myself, but I understand the nuances of the situation and try to strive for civil dialogue. Let’s hope we can keep it that way. 🙂

  12. I buy seafood in Philly (Rittenhouse Square) all the time from a place that says “Barnegat, NJ” underneath the business name. It’s fantastic seafood. I ended up at this site because I was googling the location after hearing about Dan Fagin’s book about the Toms River. Should I be avoiding this fish?

  13. I’ve lived in Shore Acres since 1962 and watched the changes in the sea- life in our bay and I’ll agree we need more exchange with the ocean. Back then we caught sea trout, blowfish galore and blue claw crabs that actually had hard shells; nearly everywhere. Now you need to know here to fish (thank heavens) and the jellyfish make the water hard to swim in. The jelly fish used to be creatures found only in late August or September; now it’s year round. The bay needs help, and soon.

  14. In response to SA Guard North – You mention the blowfish. The fact that they are gone – according to experts — is a sign that something is amiss. They certainly were not fished out. They left. The lowly blowfish has a story to tell and me thinks it is not a happy one.

  15. First of all, you don’t have a freaking clue what you are talking about. I find it amusing that you are from Venice, Italy – an area that is doomed from rising dung water – and the water that is dooming you is beyond sludge (as you call our bay.) That place is literally swimming in its own shit. Sludge Basket you call it here? Hilarious. Take a water sample from your home crap waters vs. Barnegat Bay and I’d love to see the results. Guess where our sewage goes? Treatment plants. Guess where your’s goes? Your water. Yet, you people eat the fish out of your dump water daily. Ours atleast is monitored daily by the DEP. Our water is tested, as is our shellfish, all of which are a hell of a lot safer than the mass marketed crab meat from Vietnam – from who’s waters might even be nastier than Venice, Italy because the governing bodies there just don’t give a crap.

    True, the bay was rocked after the storm and the water was not safe at that point, but three inlets from the cleanest region of the ocean cleanse it twice a day and in months, the shellfish tested safe.

    Then you are going to rag on bluefish? Do some research, anus brain. How many bluefish attacks on record? …oh, right, none. Yeah, if you are a dumb ass from Venice Italy and put your finger in a blue fish’s mouth, it will bite you but only dip shits would do that and write about it. Not to mention – never has a 30 pound bluefish (as you write) ever been caught on record. The state record is well under that. Fucking dick bags like you make me sick.

    Whoever this a-hole is that wrote this story doesn’t know his d from is a. Barnegat Bay is a thriving, beautiful and very clean estuary with healthy marine life. You sir, are a douche bag.

  16. oh ps – the blowfish are not gone. they here and thriving. if you can’t catch a blowfish in the barnegat bay you shouldn’t be fishing. my 6 year old catches 100 in an hour.

  17. I live on the bay and you have to have rocks in your head to swim or eat anything in that nasty stagnant water. The water furthest away from the inlet, closer to mainland, especially the lagoons has been there for centuries. Chemical companies since the 1900’s use to dump their waste drums in the pinelands and the bay for decades. The whole state is a toxic dumpsite. Garden State? Yeah, if you’re growing smokestacks.

  18. It’s a shame all these people with their heads in the sand all you have to do is drive down to Seaside Heights or park and see all the unnatural green lawns same thing on the Toms River Forked River side and realize all the damn pesticides and fertilizers that are destroying Barnegat Bay also I talked to some old people from around the area of Toms River and they told me it was basically a cesspool and that companies dumped whatever they want and they never go near the water or eat anything from it

  19. I spent 10 yrs living on the lagoons of Beach Haven West. We swam , rode jet ski’s, boated and fished in the bay while I was in my teen/early 20’s . Why I have no idea. It’s disgusting. I now live a few miles inland and have served on my towns environmental committee . People can tell themselves whatever they want but that bay is atrocious . I would never eat a thing that came out of those waters. I also do not allow my children to swim in it when there are beautiful clean beaches right over the bridge. There are plenty of scientific studies to support this as well as anyone with a pair of eyes. Do as you will but I don’t feel this article is out of sorts at all. It’s actually amusing the outrage it’s causing . Do your homework , educate yourself and make your choices but don’t attack someone for stating the obvious .

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