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Assembly Panel Clears Houghtaling Measure to Improve New Jersey’s Aquaculture Industry

(TRENTON) – To enhance and protect New Jersey’s aquaculture, Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling (D-Monmouth) sponsors a bill package to extend Rights to Farm Act protections to certain aquaculture activities, promote State aquaculture products through the Jersey Fresh program, and eliminate the prohibition against shellfish on Sunday for established commercial producers. The measures were approved by the Assembly Agriculture Committee on Thursday.

Aquaculture refers to the “farming” of fish, mollusks, crustaceans, and aquatic plants requiring some form of intervention in the rearing process such as regular stocking, feeding, protection from predators, and more to improve production.

Under current law, to be eligible for Right to Farm protection, a farm must meet the definition of “commercial farm” and comply with agricultural management practices accepted by the State Agriculture Development Committee. The first bill (A-6094) would amend the definition of “commercial farm” to include farm management units or aquaculture management units engaging in aquaculture and producing, or likely to produce within three years.  Under the bill, an aquaculture operation would not need to qualify for farmland assessment in order to receive Right to Farm Act protections.

A second measure, (A-6095) would direct the Department of Agriculture to advertise and promote State aquaculture products through the Jersey Fresh program.  The measure would also annually appropriate $100,000 to cover these expenses.  Currently, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture Office of Aquaculture Coordination licenses more than 100 finfish, shellfish, and aquatic plant producers in the state. The bill would direct the department to help promote and market the industry.  The Office also works closely with the National Aquaculture Association to address national issues of concern to the aquaculture industry.

The final bill (A-6096) would eliminate the prohibition against shellfish on Sunday for established commercial shellfish producers.  Under the bill, producers would only be prohibited from collecting shellfish before sunrise and after sunset on Sunday.

Upon committee approval of the measures, Assemblyman Houghtaling issued the following statement:

“New Jersey’s robust aquatic ecosystem allows our State to offer a wide variety of products including finfish and shellfish.  As our aquaculture industry continues to develop, we must adapt to changing times.  Lifting some restrictions and protecting fisheries under the Right to Farm Act would allow production to increase and ensure that people are able to get more of the seafood that they enjoy.  These measures will be instrumental in allowing aquaculture to continue on a path of growth and allow New Jersey to better promote our remarkable aquaculture.”