Background, Operations and Economic Benefits
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey seeks to stimulate new economic benefits for New Jersey by capitalizing on the multi-million dollar aquaculture market. The key infrastructure needed to develop and grow this industry - the The New Jersey Aquaculture Innovation Center (NJAIC) has been constructed with a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Additional funds were provided by Rutgers, the N.J. Commission on Science and Technology, PSE&G, and the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority for a total of $ 7.7 million. Using New Jersey's natural assets, the NJAIC can be used to stimulate economic growth, provide employment opportunities, act as a business incubator, assist in aquatic restoration efforts and move New Jersey's aquaculture production into the global market place. The NJAIC also represents a critical component in efforts to revitalize the oyster industry in Delaware Bay and other east coast bays. Expanded production of Rutgers developed and patented disease-resistant oysters can be supported by the NJAIC thus restoring jobs and recapturing markets once served by this south Jersey industry.
New Jersey's coastal location and its proximity to the largest consumer markets in the nation indicate that aquaculture can be a thriving and vital industry in the State. The NJAIC is poised to play a critical role in the growth of aquaculture in New Jersey. In addition to direct employment, aquaculture producers create jobs in shore-side communities such as seafood processing, marketing, transportation and vessel maintenance. Ancillary jobs also are created in professions such as law, accounting, consulting, insurance, and in industries that supply materials to aquaculture business such as outboard motors, plastic mesh and piping and fish feed. These bring the total economic impact of aquaculture to New Jersey as high as $36 million.
At the NJAIC, members of the New Jersey fishing industry, aquaculture entrepreneurs and those interested in aquatic restoration will be able to learn methods of commercially raising seafood, thus enabling them to compete with industries from surrounding states already engaged in the practice. For example, the hard clam aquaculture industry in NJ commenced in the mid 1970's when a number of NJ watermen received training at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. These watermen adapted the aquaculture technology to NJ conditions and developed what is now a multimillion dollar eco-friendly industry spanning the entire east coast. Unfortunately, the lack of support for these entrepreneurs has relegated these NJ growers to an ever decreasing segment of the coast wide production.
A host of potential sources of revenue are available to support research and training programs at the NJAIC. The facility is operational and is expected to generate revenue to expand research, training, and service operations.