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Van Drew Bill To Help Oyster Producers In NJ Goes to Governor

Senator VanDrew

Would Create ‘One-Stop Shop’ for Permit Applications 

TRENTON – As part of an initiative to spur growth of the state’s aquaculture industry and boost New Jersey’s oyster production operations, Senator Jeff Van Drew sponsored legislation to streamline state rules for aquaculture farming projects. The bill – to create a ‘one-stop shop’ for project permits, eliminating the bureaucratic maze that operators are forced to navigate – was approved today by the Senate, sending it to the desk of the governor.

The legislation was developed after legislators heard from aquatic farmers and industry experts in New Jersey’s aquaculture industry at a 1st Legislative District Economic Development Task Force meeting.

“We have great potential to boost the state’s aquaculture industry and to really grow the production of oysters on our coasts,” said Senator Van Drew, who serves as chair of the task force. “The problem is that aquatic farmers are currently forced to navigate nearly a dozen agencies and bureaus with varying requirements to move their businesses forward. Creating a one-stop shop for obtaining permits will help to reduce the time and money spent by farmers looking to expand their operations.”

Currently, applicants seeking permits for aquaculture projects must deal with 11 different state agencies and bureaus with various requirements.

The bill (S317) would consolidate the review process for aquaculture projects, by requiring the state Secretary of Agriculture, in consultation with the state Commissioner of Environmental Protection, to develop a coordinated aquaculture permitting review program. The program would provide for a coordinated application process for any permit, approval or authorization required for an aquaculture project and would consolidate the review process for the application.

According to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, aquaculture is the farming of fish, mollusks, crustaceans and aquatic plants. This process includes regular stocking, feeding, and protection from predators in order to improve production. New Jersey focuses on the farming of bivalve shellfish, primarily hard clams and oysters. The Department reported that the state currently has more than 160 licensed aquatic farmers.

S317 was approved by a vote of 35-0. The Assembly approved it 76-0 in September.