The Barnegat Bay is a muse who holds her secrets close, reserved for the initiated. Even locals can miss the stories submerged within her depths. Case in point: A few years ago, Long Beach Island resident Corinne Ruff was walking the shoreline and got to wondering. Where had all of the oysters gone?
A century back, she learned, a thriving industry lined pockets, filled plates and supported a vast reef system and healthy Barnegat Bay. As on the Delaware, overharvesting and disease spelled the end, not just of the oyster trade, but of the baymen’s culture—or so it seemed. As Ruff dove deeper, she came to discover the modern-day baymen (and women) guiding a resurgence. Their stories are told in a new documentary to premier this summer: The Oyster Farmers.