Clearly, New Jersey’s fishing and aquaculture industry faces great challenges while also enjoying certain advantages over its counterparts in other states.
Foremost among those advantages has been a historical willingness to be innovative, to try new approaches and to look at regulatory and natural obstacles as hurdles to be overcome, not roadblocks to elicit surrender.
The cooperatives formed at both Belford and Point Pleasant more than 50 years ago speak to that willingness to innovate. The recent moves at both ports, as well as in Barnegat Light, to embrace direct marketing techniques for the fleets’ catches also speaks to a flexibility that can lead to greater success.
The ability to work within fair, beneficial management plans ensures New Jersey’s fisheries a more even-handed future than those experienced during the days when entire species were practically wiped out due to over-fishing.
Also, the state’s position in a high-technology corridor allows ready access to the kinds of on-board freezing and other apparatus that can make each crew’s journey more efficient and profitable.
Finally, a support system of academic institutions and government agencies interested in enhancing the viability of the industry brings a level of security that the captains and their crews are not in this alone.
There is no doubt that New Jersey’s wild harvest and farm-raised seafood is among the most delicious. But, as much as the state is known for its seashore resorts, the fishermen lament that this connection does not extend to the same degree to the seafood industry.
Accordingly, a stepped-up public relations/public education effort is a key component for the industry. Fortunately, a good model already exists in the Department of Agriculture’s “Jersey Fresh” campaign for produce. That logo has become widely known throughout the nation, as far away as Washington State and into Canada.
“Jersey Fresh” branding was used as a template for the recently launched “Jersey Seafood” web site, which seeks to do for seafood what its predecessor did for Jersey produce. Additional public relations/education campaigns should be explored and, where feasible, pursued to elevate the awareness of the state’s great seafood.
Just as agri-tourism has provided expanded opportunities for farmers, a tie-in between the seafood industry and tourism would also be a benefit. The Gloucester, Massachusetts, example should be studied for approaches that could be applied in New Jersey.