Legislation Assemblymen Bob Andrzejczak, Bruce Land and Adam Taliaferro sponsored to promote aquaculture in New Jersey recently gained final legislative approval in the Senate. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.
Aquaculture involves fish or shellfish farming, and refers to the breeding, rearing and harvesting of animals and plants in all types of water environments including ponds, rivers, lakes, bays and the ocean.
As chairman of the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, Andrzejczak led recent tours of aquaculture research centers and farm locations throughout Cape May County, including the Rutgers Aquaculture Innovation Center, the Rutgers Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory and the Green Creek Oyster Fishery.
The year-long tour series gave members of the committee a first-hand look at the various types of research, farming and food processing that makes up the backbone of the state’s agriculture and agrotourism industries, so that members would gain a better understanding of the specific issues facing New Jersey farmers and the type of legislation that may be necessary to maintain the state’s position as the Garden State.
“New Jersey’s coastal location and its proximity to the largest consumer markets in the nation indicate that aquaculture can and should be a thriving and vital industry in the state,” said Andrzejczak (D-Cape May/Cumberland/Atlantic). “Aquaculture plays an important role in meeting the dietary needs of an increasingly health conscious and growing population, and fish farming can help supplement the harvest of wild caught fish to meet that demand. Aquaculture is also important to the future of the seas, because it can provide reasonably priced, good quality, highly nutritious food while helping to maintain the long-term sustainability of wild caught fisheries.”
He added, “We’re looking for a new industry and new ways to grow the economy here in New Jersey, and the oyster industry has plenty of potential to expand and really grow small business, put people to work and bring in revenue for the state.”
“New Jersey currently has more than 160 licensed aquatic farmers who are 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,” said Land (D-Cape May/Cumberland/Atlantic). “According to the Aquaculture Innovation Center at Rutgers University, the total economic impact of aquaculture to New Jersey is as high as $36 million. With New Jersey’s coastal location and its proximity to the largest consumer markets in the nation, aquaculture can and should be a thriving and vital industry in the state.”
The bill (A-793) would require the Secretary of Agriculture and the Commissioner of Environmental Protection to seek to establish with the United States Army Corps of Engineers a joint application process for aquaculture projects that require state and federal permits, licenses or approvals to facilitate approvals for aquaculture projects in the state.
“The aquaculture industry in the state has grown significantly in the last few years alone, and it’s a true boon for South Jersey’s economy,” said Taliaferro (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “Facilitating the permit process will help extend opportunities to more local fishermen, increase aquaculture production and bring more revenue into the region.”
The bill also requires, for each year for the first three years after the date of enactment of this bill into law, the Secretary of Agriculture to prepare and submit to the legislature a report on the progress made toward establishing and implementing this cooperative effort.
The measure received unanimous approval from both houses of the legislature.