Shellfish aquaculture is not new to New Jersey. For well over a century, oystermen have been planting shell on seed beds to increase recruitment.
New Jersey clam and oyster production, currently valued at $6 million annually, is expected to grow due to a combination of expanded production capability and innovative marketing strategies.
The New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA) has collaborated with the NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife and the Shellfisheries Council to establish Aquaculture Development Zones (ADZ) in the Delaware Bay.
“The State holds permits that would have otherwise been time consuming for individual growers to get on their own,” Joseph Myers, NJDA aquaculture specialist, says.
These ADZs allow innovative techniques to return to the lower reaches of the Delaware Bay that have seen production declines over the last few decades due to two waves of diseases that impacted oysters. One of those innovative techniques was Rutgers and Atlantic Cape Fisheries’ development of French-style rack-and-bag farming for raising oysters and Rutgers’ development of disease-resistant, faster growing oysters.
A recent NJDEP rule change has created even more regulatory flexibility for aquaculture in areas such as Barnegat Bay, and the NJDA is conducting a USDA-funded feasibility study to help growers develop farm-raised shellfish as a local food item.
Opportunity also exists for better marketing for hard clams to help people experience their gourmet qualities, similar to oysters.