Efforts abound to promote New Jersey’s delicious seafood
By Charles M. Kuperus
New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture
Click here to view the New Jersey Department of Agriculture
Fishing and Aquaculture: Harvesting the Garden State’s
When people think of New Jersey agriculture, they tend
to envision the fertile valleys of the state’s northwestern
region or the vast acreage of fruits and vegetables spread
throughout South Jersey. Perhaps they think of peach orchards
in Gloucester County or herds of dairy cows and horse farms.
state’s coastal towns don’t immediately spring
to mind when discussing the overall food and agriculture
picture. But they should.
they’re less likely to be home to vast orchards or
fields of greens, these coastal towns are the perfect places
for another sector of New Jersey agriculture – the
seafood industry. As much as produce or dairy or horses,
the industry is an integral part of our Garden State’s
overall agricultural landscape.
New Jersey Department of Agriculture has recently published
a package of reports on the fish and shellfish industry
in this state. That research found that the harvesting of
fish and shellfish from open waters and the farming of seafood
through aquaculture account for approximately $200 million
annually paid to the fishermen, and a total contribution
to the economy of $600 million. The reports can be found
on the “Jersey Seafood” web page at www.jerseyseafood.nj.gov.
Jersey is home to six major ports – Atlantic City,
Barnegat Light, Belford, Cape May, Point Pleasant and Port
Norris. It might surprise New Jerseyans to learn that Cape
May is the sixth largest fishing port in the nation in terms
of the value of the catch brought into that port.
prominence of New Jersey seafood should not be that much
of a surprise. All along the state’s coastline, you
can find towns that grew up around the industry. From Atlantic
Highlands and Barnegat to Absecon and Cape May, the imprint
of the fishing industry lives on even as tourism and development
occupy a growing portion of the landscape.
year, over 100 species of finfish and shellfish were harvested
from the waters of the Garden State. Whether it is monkfish
sold at markets in Korea or squid served in Madrid’s
tapas restaurants, New Jersey seafood is prized throughout
than 1,500 vessels employing nearly 3,000 fishermen call
New Jersey home. However, the impact of the industry doesn’t
stop at the ports. New Jersey also boasts 15 seafood processing
plants and 81 seafood wholesalers, together employing more
than 2,200 workers.
this is an economic engine that provides the state not only
with income, but also a sense of history and an identifiable
product desired by many. The Department of Agriculture has
recognized this importance to our state and has worked for
the past several years to more fully integrate the seafood
industry as a part of agriculture.
In June 2004, the State Board of Agriculture adopted rules
establishing an aquaculture policy framework to foster full
development of the industry. The Department’s first
implementation of that policy was to hold free workshops
to assist people in obtaining Aquatic Farmer Licenses.
In October 2004, the first Aquatic Farmer Licenses were
issued. The licenses allow producers to demonstrate definitive
ownership of the organisms being cultured, while also reducing
the possibility of introduction of exotic pests that may
be detrimental to wild stocks and other aquatic forms. To
date, 156 licenses have been issued to aquatic farmers.
Also in October 2004, the Department launched a “Jersey
Seafood” website (www.jerseyseafood.nj.gov), where
visitors can find seafood recipes, health and nutrition
tips and a list of suppliers, exporters, importers and product
In January 2005, a series of economic development initiatives
were promulgated by the Department, covering issues such
as developing seafood restaurant promotions and branding,
supporting direct marketing opportunities and aiding in
the development of value-added seafood products.
Also in early-2005, the USDA’s Rural Development Program
partnered with the Department on a $47,100 grant to a group
of seven aquaculture producers to market bagged clams under
the “Jersey Seafood” label.
In July 2004, the Department received a $61,000 USDA grant
to investigate market opportunities for seafood and organically
grown aquaculture products to help expand domestic markets
and better meet the needs of an increasingly health-conscious
In fall of 2004, the State Agriculture Development Committee
adopted an Agricultural Management Practice for aquaculture
that is based on the management practices and aquatic organism
health plan published by Rutgers University.
In July 2005, the Department received a $56,500 matching
USDA grant to work with Rutgers University on projects aimed
at promoting the live seafood market in the state. New Jersey’s
growing Asian population, which prefers buying some seafood
live, has created an expanded market for live seafood producers
New Jersey’s fishing and aquaculture industry has
seen its peaks and valleys throughout the years. Integrating
the industry more into the state’s overall agricultural
landscape, aggressively pursuing branding and marketing
of seafood products and aiding in restoring the waterways
that produce our fish and shellfish all will help bring
New Jersey’s seafood industry to renewed vitality.