Van Drew & Andrzejczak to Introduce Legislation to Help Oyster Producers in NJ

Bills Would Create ‘One-Stop Shop’ for Permit Applications

(TRENTON) — As part of an initiative to spur growth of the state’s aquaculture industry and boost New Jersey’s oyster production operations, Senator Jeff Van Drew and Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak announced Friday they will introduce legislation to streamline state rules for aquaculture farming projects.

The bills will create a ‘one-stop shop’ for project permits, eliminating the bureaucratic maze that operators are currently forced to navigate for approval The two bills were unveiled at the recent 1st Legislative District Economic Development Task Force meeting in Wildwood, where legislators heard from aquatic farmers and industry experts on New Jersey’s aquaculture industry.

“New Jersey has the potential to boost its aquaculture industry and to really grow the production of oysters on our coasts – which we know are loved by seafood connoisseurs across the country and around the world,” said Senator Van Drew, chair of the task force. “By improving our permitting processes, we will help to reduce the time and money spent by aquatic farmers who are currently forced to navigate nearly a dozen agencies and bureaus with varying requirements to move their businesses forward. These measures would provide a one-stop shop for obtaining permits. This is a common sense way to help business owners and aquatic farmers expand their operations in the state.”

“Our state’s coastal location gives us great potential to be a hub for aquaculture entrepreneurship, and New Jersey must take advantage of opportunities to bring in new jobs and stimulate growth for an industry that yields millions of dollars in economic benefits to the state,” said Andrzejczak, chair of the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and vice-chair of the task force. “Aquaculture is a critical component of our economy, and these bills will have an invaluable impact on the legislature’s ability to facilitate aquaculture development.”

Currently, applicants seeking permits for aquaculture projects must deal with 11 different state agencies and bureaus with various requirements.

The first bill would consolidate the review process for aquaculture projects, by requiring the Secretary of Agriculture, in consultation with the Commissioner of Environmental Protection, to develop the joint aquaculture permitting review program. The program would provide for a joint application for any permit, approval or authority required for an aquaculture project.

The second bill would require the Secretary of Agriculture and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to work with the United States Army Corps of Engineers in order to establish a joint application process for aquaculture projects that require both state and federal permits, licenses or approvals.

Van Drew and Andrzejczak led the hearing, during which they heard testimony on the issues faced by those in the industry. Those who testified were:

  • Michael De Luca, Senior Associate Director, Rutgers Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences;
  • David Bushek, Director and Associate Professor, Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory;
  • Lisa Calvo, Aquaculture Extension Program Coordinator, Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory;
  • Elizabeth “Betsy” Haskin, Owner, Betsy’s Cape Shore Salts; and
  • Brian Harmon, Aquaculture/Husbandry Manager, Atlantic Capes Fisheries.

According to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, aquaculture is the farming of fish, mollusks, crustaceans and aquatic plants. This process includes regular stocking, feeding, and protection from predators in order to improve production. New Jersey focuses on the farming of bivalve shellfish, primarily hard clams and oysters. The Department reported that the state currently has more than 160 licensed aquatic farmers.