The Barnegat Bay is a critical natural resource located amidst two of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States. This region includes some of the most ecologically productive habitats on Earth, and natural features that help buffer coastal communities from storms, improve water quality, and support commercial and recreational fisheries.

The Barnegat Bay estuarine system is 75 square miles and includes barnegat bay, manahawkin bay, and little egg harbor


The watershed encompasses most of the 33 municipalities in Ocean County, NJ; 4 in Monmouth County, NJ; and 1 in Burlington County, NJ.


The watershed is comprised of 600 square miles of land areas that drain into 11 rivers and streams that empty into the system.


Over 560,000 people live in the Barnegat Bay watershed.




Henry Hudson sailed upon the Barnegat Bay, naming it “Barende-gut” (Dutch for inlet with breakers).


People started using the Barnegat Bay region as a destination for leisure and a “summer playground”. Development began to affect the futures of shore residents, from the baymen and others making a livelihood off the natural resources and entrepreneurs catering to an emerging summer clientele.


Development of the Point Pleasant Canal opened the upper bay and Metedeconk River to tidal exchange. As freshwater habitats (cranberry bogs, for example) were inundated with tidal brackish water, the bay began to convert to estuarine habitat. This led to changes in traditional fishing and hunting practices and a decline in freshwater fish and species.


The introduction of the Garden State Parkway opened access for an influx of people into the area.


Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station began using the bay’s water to cool it’s reactors, pouring warm refuse water back into the Bay.


The establishment of the NJ Pinelands Commission and designation of the Pinelands National Reserve allocated funds to acquire and protect critically important ecological areas including the lands surrounding the Barnegat Bay.


A tremendous increase in the number of people living in Ocean County was beginning to have a dramatic impact on the landscape, ecology, and resources of the bay as shellfish and other species population begin to decline.


The Barnegat Bay Partnership- a partnership between federal, state, municipal, academic, business and private organizations- was established to help restore, protect, and enhance the water quality and natural resources of the Barnegat Bay watershed.

Click here to learn more about the ecology, economic value, and natural history of the Barnegat Bay watershed.