We’re glad to see bipartisan enactment of two proposals we’ve supported. Away from the take-no-prisoners enmity of politics, government still gets needed things done.
One will help advance South Jersey’s new and potentially important aquaculture industry by developing a simpler review of applications and permits. A law directs the state Departments of Agriculture and Environmental Protection to adopt a coordinated process for aquaculture projects, and another requires them to establish with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers a joint application for projects needing federal and state approval.
With its long bay and ocean shoreline and proximity to major metropolitan markets, South Jersey has the potential for a significant fish-farming sector. In 2015, members of the Rutgers Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences estimated growing oysters alone could be worth $30 million a year.
Oyster farming on Delaware Bay has made a good start, and its Cape May Salts have been welcomed by oyster connoisseurs. Two oyster varieties bred by Rutgers for better disease resistance are raised.
The permit streamlining comes as another potential hurdle to Delaware Bay aquaculture looks like it might be overcome. The bay near the shore is flat and shallow, conducive to working oyster racks from shore — but also to horseshoe crabs spawning and federally threatened red knots feeding on their eggs.
Preliminary research by a shellfish ecologist with the Haskin Shellfish Research Lab suggests the horseshoe crabs readily swim through the oyster farms to shore to lay their eggs.
The lab’s Aquaculture Innovation Center also is developing a buttery tasting surf clam suitable for aquaculture. Clams and oysters are the product for the bulk of New Jersey’s 160 aquaculture businesses, which already contribute $36 million annually to the state economy.
When the Legislature approved the aquaculture permit streamlining in November, the Agriculture Department thought the laws might be too complex and comprehensive, and not focused enough on advancing clam and oyster farming. We assume (or hope, anyway) that concern was considered and the administration determined the laws as written were fine.
The other proposal that became law this month is more straightforward. New Jersey will join the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact and share information about wildlife violations with other states. Those convicted of violating hunting, fishing or trapping regulations won’t be able to just come to New Jersey and continue their misdeeds.
Since joining the compact was supported by the hunting, fishing and environmental communities, we’re surprised it took this long. New Jersey was one of the last nonmember states.