It's not a deep covert mission but quite the opposite as "Operation Oyster" will be vital to the health of the Navesink River system, which is why The American Littoral Society will be placing shells along the waterfront on Friday afternoon in Red Bank.

An Oyster critical to the health of the Navesink River System. (American Littoral Society)
An Oyster critical to the health of the Navesink River System. (American Littoral Society)

They'll be placing bags of shells in front of homeowners docks, marinas and other waterfront businesses to clean the water in the Navesink River system.

The shells will act like magnets along the waterfront to try and draw in whatever oysters are still living in the river system in a critical first step, officials say in determining a plan to increase its health.

Executive Director of the American Littoral Society here in New Jersey, Tim Dillingham, explains they're looking to rebuild oyster beds which will benefit both the Navesink and Shrewsbury Rivers.

"Oysters are natural eco-system engineers," said Dillingham. "They filter up to 50-gallons of water a day. We're going to try and put them to use in helping to protect these rivers."

While the shells they'll be placing along the waterfront is important in finding how many of these mollusks are left, there's a couple big roles oysters play in the overall health of the river system.

"They actually filter the water and take some of the things that are harmful to estuaries and bays out of the system," said Dillingham. "They also provide habitat because they grow in reefs, so there's lots of little niches for fish to live in."

Tracking these oysters won't be an easy task, even with the shells because they're constantly on the move.

"Oysters in the early part of their lives float freely in the water," said Dillingham.

He says Friday's event in part stems from a rising number of pollution problems in recent years across the Navesink River system.

Dillingham explains that oysters play a critical role in consuming those pollutants, which is why is so important to find them.

"The Navesink's been having problems over the last couple of years," said Dillingham. "More and more of the waters have been closed due to pollution and we've seen more problems occurring there."

More than a dozen restaurants have helped collect shells for this event from a previous one called "Shuck it, don't chuck it" by The American Littoral Society.

"They help us by collecting the shell and returning it back to us so we can use it in building new reefs," said Dillingham. "We're hoping that as we spread the story about this work, more restaurants will join in and help out in the effort."

Among the leaders or groups involved in helping these efforts is actually a trustee and board member with the society and owner of "The Lusty Lobster" Doug Douty.

"Doug Douty has definitely been the driving force behind the partnership with all the restaurants," said Dillingham.

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