Long Beach Township, 9th District Delegation Highlight Importance of Aquaculture Projects in New JerseyLawmakers Push for Streamlined Approval Process
Aquaculture – the rearing and harvesting of fish, shellfish or plants in water environments – is poised for resurgence in New Jersey, with representatives on the municipal and state levels voicing support for an expedited approval process for these projects.
Last month, Long Beach Township Mayor Joseph Mancini sent a letter to Diane Dow, director of the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection Division of Land Use Regulation, in support of aquaculture in the state, and specifically in the Barnegat Bay Little Egg Estuary.
“The Barnegat Bay has historically hosted a thriving oyster industry and we fully support the efforts by the current growers and farmers seeking to revitalize this resource,” the mayor stated. “Oysters are a keystone species in our coastal ecosystem; they are integral to the water quality, as one adult oyster filters 50 gallons per day. Farms and reefs provide habitat for all the species that live in the bay and increase the fish catch value exponentially.”
“New Jersey needs to value this industry,” said township Sustainability Coordinator Angela Andersen, producer of the film “The Oyster Farmers,” which will premiere in May. “Our laws are just catching up to promote the industry,” which has both environmental and economic potentials.
In his letter, Mancini specifically referenced a new farm area off High Bar Harbor, a section of the township to the north of Long Beach Island. The farm will be run by 40 North Oyster Farms, operating under the name Barnegat Oyster Collective. Recently, the group – which aims to provide leases for 12 prospective growers – was waiting for land use approval.
“I support the other applications before you that will enable oysters to once again thrive in the Barnegat Bay Little Egg Harbor Estuary,” said Mancini. “The 40 North farmers are pioneering this effort; they operate a working farm off of Rose Cove across the bay from the south end of Long Beach Island and are adjacent to a research oyster reef that Stockton University is pursuing. Resurrecting this industry in the waters off of Long Beach Island also provides tremendous value potential for the waters near the Little Egg Harbor Inlet. Our area can once again become a thriving fishing port and I hope that all agencies can recognize this potential and work hard to streamline permit reviews.”
He added, “Clamming helped put me through college back in my youth and I want to see other generations be able to have that same privilege.”
Sen. Christopher J. Connors, Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove of the 9th District also sent correspondence to Dow earlier this month, noting, “As the sponsors of recently enacted legislation, S-316 and S-317, that will assist greatly in streamlining the approval process for aquaculture projects in the state, we wish to also strongly convey our support for the advancement of projects in the Barnegat Bay Little Egg Estuary, including the High Bar Harbor project.
“This is also consistent with our legislative action taken as coastal legislators in sponsoring joint resolution AJR-24 (SJR-36) which, upon being signed by the Governor, declared aquaculture an important State economic driver and urges the State to include the industry in its economic development plans.”
“I have been following the recent legislative initiatives and am pleased to see the bills S-317 and S-316 signed,” Mancini noted. “By streamlining the review process for aquaculture projects and developing a coordinated permitting review program for aquaculture projects we can begin to see this industry and our coastal ecosystems thrive.” The mayor also praised the joint resolution, which was introduced by Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-1st).
As the 9th District legislators explained, New Jersey currently has more than 160 licensed aquatic farmers “producing a variety of finfish and shellfish for food, ornamental fish and plants for water gardens, and sport fish for stocking and fee fishing operations.”
Rutgers University’s Aquaculture Innovation Center, they added, estimates the total economic impact of state aquaculture is $36 million per year, which demonstrates the economic viability and expansion potential of the industry.
Visit the N.J. Department of Agriculture website at nj.gov/agriculture for information on aquaculture development.
— Juliet Kaszas-Hoch