LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP — Grass-roots organizers are pleased with the state’s push to save Barnegat Bay, but they say nothing is being done to address the economic side, and they want the state to change that.
“You can get money out of the bay. It’s a multimillion-dollar business, and it’s just sitting here waiting for someone to develop it,” said Rick Bushnell, president of ReClam the Bay.
Bushnell called on Gov. Chris Christie last month to add an economic revitalization of Barnegat Bay to his 10-point plan.
“I’m all ears,” said Christie, who held a public forum in Long Beach Township on July 26 and spoke briefly about the economic effect Barnegat Bay has on the region.
Bushnell has since written to the state Department of Environmental Protection, asking to set up a meeting.
The state should market fish as Jersey Fresh much the way New Jersey produce is marketed, instead of Jersey seafood, he said.
“DEP is the regulator, but they’re also responsible for what goes on in the bay. But you don’t really see anyone promoting the idea of aquaculture at the state level,” he said.
DEP spokesman Larry Hajna said that the agency had received Bushnell’s letter dated July 29 but that his request did not get into specific details of what he was looking to do.
“This administration has made it clear that we listen to people, and at the DEP we see that connection between a strong economy and healthy environment that clearly go hand in hand,” Hajna said.
Karen Walzer, spokeswoman for the Barnegat Bay Partnership, said the organization was having a study completed on the economic analysis and value of natural resources in the estuary.
“It’s more than just the natural resources, it’s how people use those natural resources,” Walzer said.
It’s no surprise that the state did not focus on the economic value of the Barnegat Bay in its 10-point plan, because the data are unavailable, she said.
She said the obvious factors economically were commercial and recreational fishing, tourism and the value of the water that the population uses. “There’s a way to put a value on it,” she said.
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