NJ’s Pallone: Seafood industry getting just a nibble of available federal funds
HIGHLANDS — The seafood industry in New Jersey and other states isn't getting enough attention financially from the federal government, according to a bill introduced in Congress.
Under the Supporting Equity for Aquaculture and Seafood (SEAS) Act, the U.S. Department of Agriculture would have to give the same financial consideration to these industries as land-based agriculture producers when handing out grants.
"Not because we think that raising cattle, for example, is not important — it is, but we do think the Department of Agriculture, historically, has not put enough emphasis on seafood and on aquaculture, as opposed to raising farm animals," said U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J. 6th District.
Pallone made his comments during a visit Tuesday to the JT White Shellfish Plant in Highlands.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) claims that the U.S. imports 70 to 85% of its seafood. More than half of these imports are the product of aquaculture, the production of fish and shellfish in controlled environments.
“Investing in aquaculture will help ensure all Americans have access to safe and affordable seafood nationwide. When we increase in the consumption of American seafood, we can alleviate food insecurity, create new economic opportunities, and reduce our food system’s impact on the environment,” Pallone said.
Seafood and aquaculture contribute $3 billion annually to the Garden State's economy, according to Pallone's office. The industries account for more than 53,000 jobs in the state, which has consistently been a nationwide leader in the production of clams, oysters, scallops, and other seafood products.
“We have to work harder to shrink our seafood deficit and bolster our nation’s own production capabilities," said Matt Gregg, President of the New Jersey Aquaculture Association. "The SEAS Act prioritizes aquaculture and lays out a framework for its future."