Northeast
New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station - Rutgers University Fisheries and Aquaculture (Rutgers NJAES)

NJ - Coastal Aquaculture Project Awarded $961,227 in Funding

OCSCD and Partners Aim to Enhance Shellfish Habitat, Water Quality

Local shellfish aquaculture is getting a boost. The Ocean County Soil Conservation District has announced that it, along with its diverse contingent of partners, was awarded $961,227 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service to fund an NJ COASTAL (Conservation Opportunities Advancing Sustainable Technologies for Aquaculture Leases) Aquaculture Project. Seventy percent of the funds will go directly to shellfish aquaculture producers.

“Project partners will provide technical assistance and an additional $961,227 in match through cash and in-kind contributions,” said Kristin Adams, erosion control specialist with the OCSCD and the project coordinator.

Partners include: Long Beach Township, Barnegat Bay Partnership, ReClam the Bay, Stockton University, Parsons Mariculture, Forty North Oyster Farms/Barnegat Oyster Collective, Jetty Rock Foundation, Cape Atlantic Conservation District, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, the N.J. chapter of the Nature Conservancy, the New Jersey Aquaculture Association, the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Shellfisheries, the N.J. Department of Agriculture and Pew Charitable Trusts.

Adams explained, “The overarching goals of the NJ COASTAL Aquaculture Project are to promote aquatic habitat on shellfish leases and enhance water quality throughout the coastal bays of New Jersey – with a focus on the Barnegat and Great Bay region – by increasing producer participation in Natural Resources Conservation Service conservation programs.

“An additional goal of this Regional Conservation Partnership Program project is the implementation of new conservation practice scenarios connecting producers with restoration projects,” she continued. “Through implementation of this program, the district will coordinate and collaborate with partners to achieve natural resource improvements while connecting with an unconventional and underserved group of producers. Increasing oyster populations and improving water quality within the Barnegat and Great Bay region can be fulfilled through restoration initiatives as well as supporting the aquaculture industry.

“The NJ COASTAL Aquaculture Project serves to make connections between farmers and the Natural Resources Conservation Service and farmers to restoration; these linkages are critical to ensuring continued, future success for natural resource enhancement within our nation’s estuaries.”

“This is a major accomplishment,” ReClam President Rick Bushnell said of the funding award. “This project is, and will be, a huge benefit to the estuary.”

As the USDA points out, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program “promotes coordination of NRCS conservation activities with partners that offer value-added contributions to expand our collective ability to address on-farm, watershed and regional natural resource concerns. Through RCPP, NRCS seeks to co-invest with partners to implement projects that demonstrate innovative solutions to conservation challenges and provide measurable improvements and outcomes tied to the resource concerns they seek to address.”

Visit nrcs.usda.gov to learn more about the grant program.  —J.K.-H.

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