Zemeckis defines New Jersey’s aquaculture industry
TOMS RIVER — A marine aquaculture seminar held virtually in October covered a wide scope of endeavors, including oyster and clam farming, commercial and recreational fishing and scallop fishing.
Presenters included Rutgers Cooperative Extension aquaculture agents Dr. Doug Zemeckis and Dr. Lisa Calvo, who works out of the Haskin Shellfish Research Lab in Port Norris.
Zemeckis is a seafood specialist who works out of Toms River but provides insight and support to aquaculture farmers and fisheries in Monmouth, Ocean and Atlantic counties.
“We’re planning to have this program annual in recognition of October being National Seafood Month,” he said. “New Jersey is known as the Garden State, but we also have over 140 miles of useful, productive coastline and our recreational and commercial marine fisheries are important for tourism and contributing to seafood production on commercial and recreational sides.”
The largest commercial fishing ports in New Jersey include Belford Seafood Coop in Monmouth County, Point Pleasant and Barnegat Light in Ocean County, Atlantic City in Atlantic County, Cape May in Cape May County and Port Norris in Cumberland County, on the Delaware Bay.
Zemeckis cited statistics from the National Marine Fisheries’ Service, noting 2017 is the year from which the most recent data is available.
“There are an estimated 39,000 jobs in New Jersey alone from commercial fishing and seafood and an estimated 14,000 jobs in recreational fishing here in Garden State,” he said, “honing in on the Mid-Atlantic, New Jersey’s value is estimated to be $7.3 billion dollars in sales here,” he said, including all ancillary businesses involved in the seafood and commercial and recreational fishing industries.
“Recreational and commercial marine fisheries have a high economic, social and cultural value” he said, and the value of being out on the open water for fishing as recreation cannot be over-estimated.
“New Jersey’s most valuable commercial fisheries, the farm value or ex-vessel price paid to commercial fishermen for their catch upon landing, over this decade ranged from $150 to $220 million, and when you figure in the multiplier effect, the total sales impact is about $8 billion for 2017 when you include what’s caught in other states and even other countries and processed here in New Jersey.”
Sea scallops are the most valuable, ranging from about $40 to $140 million, “so the price paid to the boat is about $10 per pound for sea scallops, which are shucked at sea by hand by the fishermen, and meats are brought home frozen and brought to market,” Zemeckis said.
Another big money-maker for New Jersey is surf clams, he noted, and the ex-vessel value of surf clam products coming ashore from New Jersey operators ranges from $10 to $30 million. Blue crabs come in ranked No. 3, as they are being harvested not only out of the Delaware Bay, but more recently out of the huge Barnegat Bay.
Ranked at No. 4 in value are summer flounder and fifth most valuable are monk fish, Zemeckis said, adding, “people tend to be surprised that lobster is actually No. 6. There are only about 15 boats still active, some of which are part-time, but in terms of value, it’s $2 to $4 million for the ex-vessel value of their product.”
At Belford Seafood Coop in Belford, Monmouth County the most valuable species is summer flounder, followed by menhaden or bunker, followed by squid, scup and black sea bass, he noted.
At Barnegat in Ocean County, “sea scallops are the top in the state there, followed by golden tie fish, followed by monk fish, tuna and swordfish and there are some trawlers for summer flounder.”
“In Cape May County, the most valuable catches are sea scallops, two different types of squid, menhaden and surf clams,” he said, noting things are much different at Port Norris on the Delaware Bay.
“Here the most valuable species are oysters, blue crabs, menhaden and American eel, so we have quite a diversity of fisheries throughout the state,” Zemeckis said.
“Quite a bit of the quota for New Jersey and other states is actually caught further offshore during the colder months,” he said, as “summer flounder are in-shore during the summer and they migrate further offshore to reproduce in late fall and winter, so a lot of fishing occurs further offshore during the colder months, quite a bit off the Hudson Canyon.”
He also noted New Jersey is the southernmost state for profitable lobster fishing, and there is great value in local seafood production.
“If we look at sea scallops, we have 10 million pounds at about $10 a pound, so that’s a valuable industry.”
According to a New Jersey Department of Agriculture spokesperson, aquaculture came under the purview of the NJDA with the passage of the New Jersey Aquaculture Development Act in 1997. I
t provided enabling legislation to create the NJDA’s Office of Aquaculture Coordination.
“Given the high recreational and socio-economic value of New Jersey’s commercial and recreational fisheries, it is important that we have as reliable as possible science and management to maintain the sustainability of the industries that rely on these resources.” Zemeckis said.
1-800-634-5021 410-822-3965 Fax- 410-822-5068
P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925