A New Jersey environmental group is re-establishing an oyster colony in Barnegat Bay as part of a plan to improve water quality and simultaneously help protect the shoreline from storms like Superstorm Sandy.

The American Littoral Society is restoring an oyster colony about a quarter-mile off a section of Berkeley Township.

On Thursday, it hired a barge to dump 160 tons of whelk shells onto the bay floor.

Oysters are naturally attracted to shells, attach themselves and grow.

The shellfish naturally filter water and strain out many pollutants.

But society executive director Tim Dillingham says the hard-shell colonies also act as speed bumps for storm waves and tidal surges, helping blunt the impact of severe storms on the shoreline.

It's one of several such projects at the Jersey shore.