Meet Doug Zemeckis, New Marine Agent

Clam/Oyster Nurseries Ongoing Success
Apr 18, 2018
Supplied Photo Doug Zemeckis

The new marine extension agent with Rutgers Cooperative Extension in this area continues the past programs and brings his own experience in research and working with commercial and recreational fishermen on coastal resource issues. Meet Doug Zemeckis, Ph.D., the new county agent for Ocean/Atlantic/Monmouth with Rutgers Cooperative Extension, of the NJ Agricultural Experiment Station, which is within the state Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Zemeckis started as the county agent in September in replacement of Gef Flimlin, who was well known in that role for 38 years and recently retired.

“My primary responsibilities are conducting applied research and educational programming appropriate to the needs of clientele on issues related to fisheries, aquaculture, and related coastal management,” he described.

Zemeckis grew up in Edison and spent much of his summers at Normandy Beach in Brick, recreating and fishing on the northern part of Barnegat Bay. He periodically came to Long Beach Island to visit friends and family and to go fishing.

He holds a doctoral degree in marine science and technology from the University of Massachusetts/Dartmouth. He then returned to his undergraduate alma mater of Rutgers to do post-doctoral research. That included conducting fisheries studies along the New Jersey coast, primarily on black sea bass, lobster and blackfish.

In New England, he had done applied research on assessment and management of groundfish species such as cod, haddock, halibut and cusk.

The research was done “working collaboratively with commercial and recreational fishermen to improve the understanding of fish populations and to inform fisheries management decision-making,” he said.

The 2018 Shellfish Gardener Course in the adjacent story is part of the Barnegat Bay Shellfish Restoration Program started by Flimlin in 2005 at the Cooperative Extension of Ocean County.

BBSRP is one of the existing programs that Zemeckis is excited about continuing. It has a very close collaboration with the partnering nonprofit ReClam the Bay, whose president is Rick Bushnell.

“We collaborate on field work where volunteers who are trained and educated graduates of the Shellfish Gardener course ... would, with ReClam the Bay, continue to work for us and support the mission and activities of BBSRP,” Zemeckis said.

The first field trip taken as part of the 2018 Shellfish Gardener Course is to an upweller. Zemeckis explained, “Some of the primary activities of our partnership with BBSRP and Reclam the Bay include the growing of shellfish at the upwellers, which are shoreside nurseries for baby hard clams and oysters. Water is pumped in from the bay, and they feed on the algae from the water.

“There are a total of 11 upwellers, and over the last 12 years, millions of hard clams have been raised by volunteers and planted out in the wild – typically 500,000 to 1 million a year, and also tens of thousands of oysters.”

In the ongoing project, “the volunteers help weekly with the growing of the shellfish, which includes husbandry and caring for the hard clams and cleaning of the upwellers,” Zemeckis said.

“There is also a great deal of education that goes on at those weekly events. They are advertised and open to the public, and while the volunteers are doing their work, there is often attendance from the general public, who are then educated on the activities.”

The project at the upwellers starts in mid-May and runs through mid-October or early November.

At the upweller field trip that is part of the 2018 Shellfish Gardener Course, Zemeckis and Jeffrey Silady, director of marine operations for ReClam the Bay, will show the students how the upweller fosters survival and growth of the shellfish, and how the volunteers do their part with the necessary husbandry of the baby shellfish before they can be planted in the wild.

Oftentimes, the hard clams are planted at research lease sites in Barnegat Bay for further growth to increase their likelihood of survival.

The other field trip is to a commercial shellfish hatchery and nursery in Tuckerton, where the students can see commercial-scale production of hard clams and oysters before they are planted out on commercial lease sites.

There are other opportunities for volunteering in the BBSRP/ReClam partnership, Zemeckis said, for example, working at fairs and seafood festivals, the Shellfish in the Classroom program in local schools, and other fun field work such as planting the shellfish in Barnegat Bay.

Zemeckis has many other ongoing projects and programs underway with Rutgers Cooperative Extension, and he welcomes those interested to reach out with any questions or issues relating to fisheries, aquaculture or other coastal resource issues.

The public can also reach out to be added to an email listserve for notifications about other programs and events, such as courses on fisheries, fisheries science and management or topics covering a wide range of marine issues, he said.

Contact Zemeckis at zemeckis@njaes.rutgers.edu or phone 732-349-1152. 

— Maria Scandale

mariascandale@thesandpaper.net

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