Clearly, this could be more easily pursued in the seashore resort towns near the major ports than in a Delaware Bay location like Port Norris. However, the growing popularity of eco-tourism could lend itself to developing a tourism link for Port Norris as well. As mentioned in this report, such a move would take a concerted effort to build the kind of infrastructure needed to support tourism.
This kind of development linked to the shellfish industry in the Delaware Bay could help the industry in its comeback there. Improvements in water quality, as well as the work of such institutions as the Haskins laboratory in researching shellfish diseases, have given that comeback a fighting chance. While more needs to be done, support for the industry garnered through tourism related to it could provide the impetus for future advancement.
Finally, New Jersey’s seafood industry would benefit greatly from a greater and clearer perception of it as part of the state’s overall agricultural landscape. Fishermen themselves admit they are not adept at organizing their rather independent-minded colleagues into a cohesive unit that can fight for the industry.
Embracing the seafood industry as part of the whole of agriculture would add a voice that has proven successful in standing up for the rights of farmers. That community has been able to mobilize to slow the loss of farmland in New Jersey to where the state now preserves more farmland than it loses each year. It has found a way to work with other, sometimes oppositional, constituencies to build support for farming as a great contributor to New Jersey’s quality of life.
It is in that last area that the New Jersey Department of Agriculture can be of greatest assistance to fishing and aquaculture. By introducing the principles and practices that have helped keep land agriculture vital in New Jersey, the Department can bring the same kind of renewed spirit to the state’s fisheries and aquaculture.
In this vein, the Department has embarked upon a course to more fully integrate fishing and aquaculture into the definition of agriculture. To date, the Department has undertaken a number of initiatives, which should be enhanced and broadened to aid the industry.
They include the Jersey Seafood web site; the issuance of aquatic farmer licenses allowing producers to demonstrate definitive ownership of organisms being cultured; the creation of an Aquaculture Advisory Council charged with developing a business- friendly and environmentally sound policy framework to foster the growth of aquaculture in the state; and the Department’s involvement in Jersey Seafood promotional events involving the state’s leading chefs.
This report was prepared to stimulate discussion in the industry and general public about the ways New Jersey can further foster a vital and sustainable seafood industry. Anyone with ideas about improving the viability and vitality of the industry is welcome to send comments via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.