New Jersey might be called the Garden State, but its agriculture expands far past the gorgeous green farmland out to the coast and beyond into another realm: aquaculture. New Jersey fishermen bring in tons of fresh seafood daily along the Jersey shore for our dining pleasure.
Even with all the wonderful seafood the Jersey coast has to offer, 91% of America’s fish is imported from other countries, according to Gef Flimlin, of the Rutgers Commercial Fisheries and Aquaculture Cooperative Extension. And do you really know where that fish is coming from or how it is harvested? Sustainability is one of the words that you hear a lot when discussing aquaculture. When it comes to fishing the NJ coast, sustainability is on the forefront of every fisherman’s mind.
By getting your seafood from local New Jersey fishermen like the ones at the Fisherman’s Dock Co-Op in Point Pleasant or Viking Village in Barnegat Light, you will know exactly where your dinner comes from, and you can rest assured that it has been harvested in a highly managed sustainable way. Each fisherman must comply with strict laws written by the National Fisheries Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that include restocking the waterways to maintain a successful crop each year while simultaneously improving the waterways. Clean water means higher quality products being harvested and brought to market.
One of the hang-ups people have when it comes to purchasing local seafood (as opposed to buying imported or skipping it altogether) is that local seafood can sometimes cost more than the alternative. However, not only does supporting local fisheries help keep our waterways safe, it also helps our local economy. When you purchase local seafood your dollars pay the fisherman who brought in the catch, as well as the boat repairman, the dock master, the crew, and everyone who had a hand in the operation. Everyone involved gets a portion, which they in turn use to stay in business themselves. Eventually, this cycle can lead to lower costs for everyone—if it is maintained.
Another reason for buying local is that the imports often include more commonly known types of fish, like shrimp, flounder, tilapia (which is actually a freshwater fish, not seafood). Learning how to cook the local seafood might seem like a hard task, but simple is the best way to prepare any seafood regardless of the type. And using local seafood will most likely help you end up with a much tastier dish!
On Fridays in the summer, Viking Village offers a dock tour to teach the public about the commercial seafood industry in NJ. You can see the facility in full operation while hearing about the delicious Jersey Seafood available each week. You can also learn how to prepare and cook those options with Chef Peter Fischbach. For more information on the tour, visit Viking Village’s website or call the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce at 609-494-7211.Support your local fisheries while enjoying the best seafood the East Coast has to offer!
Here are a few more resources for info about NJ’s commercial fishing industry and how to incorporate more local seafood into your lifestyle:
All photos are courtesy of Gef Flimlin.