The Barnegat Bay-Little Egg Harbor Estuary is located along the central New Jersey coastline within the Atlantic Coastal Plain physiographic province. Its watershed encompasses most of the 33 municipalities in Ocean County, as well as four municipalities in Monmouth County. Although long recognized for its great aesthetic, economic, and recreational value, this backbay system is now affected by an array of human impacts that potentially threaten its ecological integrity.
Historically, the arrival of European settlers in Ocean County first affected the environment through changes in land use and the creation of colonial industries. As extractive natural resources were depleted, the colonial industries (e.g., lumbering and sawmills, bog iron manufacture, and charcoal manufacture) disappeared. Some people left Ocean County with the demise of the main industries, but the people who remained in the colonial settlements endured and survived by farming, hunting, fishing, and berry harvesting. In the last half of the 19th century, the recreational tourist industry began to expand, and this industry helped to produce the tremendous growth experienced in Ocean County during the last half of the 20th century.
Today, many residents of Ocean County rely upon Barnegat Bay and its resources for the livelihood of their families. Commercial and recreational fishing, tourism, and other water-dependent recreation generate many jobs, as do other industries based in or near the estuary.
The Tuckerton Seaport
Ocean County Cultural and Heritage Commission
Ocean County Historical Society