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 New Jersey Aquaculture Innovation Center at Rutgers University (AIC) is poised to play a critical role in the growth of aquaculture. 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 businesses 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 AIC, members of the 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 New Jersey commenced in the mid-1970's when a number of New Jersey watermen received training at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. These watermen adapted the aquaculture technology to New Jersey conditions and developed what is now a multimillion dollar eco-friendly industry spanning the entire east coast.
The AIC supports production of disease resistant seed oysters, a critical component in efforts to revitalize the oyster industry in Delaware Bay and other east coast bays and estuaries. This facility also supports scientific research and provides entrepreneurs with a business incubator where small-scale pilot projects can stimulate new business opportunities.