What will the future of commercial fishing in New Jersey look like?
Will it be fishermen discovering new species like they did when they found ocean clam beds off New Jersey after World War II, creating the largest ocean clam fishery in the world?
Or will changing water conditions drive away the species that fishermen have come to depend upon?
Will fishermen turn into farmers and never go to sea, instead relying on aquaculture?
Could it be something from the past, like Delaware Bay oysters making a comeback?
Predicting the future has never been easy, but for commercial fishermen here, finding the right answer is critical to having a future.
Lower Township: Trawling for answers, and a new market
Jeff Reichle, the owner of Lund's Fisheries on Ocean Drive, has trawlers going offshore to places no fisherman has ever gone before. They have trawled in 1,800 feet of water just to see what was out there.
The experiment may not pay off, but the trawlers did return with one thing: promise.
They landed two shrimp species, royal red shrimp and Spanish red shrimp, that could be fisheries of the future.
"We're looking at developing some new species, including the deepwater shrimp nobody is messing with. We know they're out there as deep as 300 fathoms," Reichle said.
Is there enough shrimp to make a profit? Reichle isn't sure, but he's sure he can't afford to ignore any option.
Commercial fishing in New Jersey, a $1 billion-per-year industry, is changing. Growing government regulations have forced fishermen to adapt what fish they go after and when. The federal government projects fishing job losses in the future to increasing regulation. And growing competition and an ever-warmer ocean driving some species away from New Jersey's coastline also are making the tough job of fishing even tougher today.
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