Money Island New Jersey is the primary oyster landing port for Delaware Bay oysters. Nantuxent Seafood is not in the oyster business but we have working relationships with other oyster growers, harvesters and dealers. The local oyster industry is estimated to add $26 million annually to the local economy.
Blue claw crabs (Callinectes sapidus) provide the largest source of revenue for Nantuxent Seafood. The Latin name means “savory beautiful swimmer”. They are caught year round in the Delaware Bay but the traditional commercial harvest that incorporates the soft shell crab shedding season runs from March to October.
We plan to continue to expand to larger volumes of crab sales each successive season. We sell six different crab products (three food products and three bait products) and have several more in development stage. Our goals are: 1) to provide a stable market for the crabs of local harvesters
, 2) raise the income of crab harvesters, 3) provide seasonal employment for local workers, 4) provide a safer and higher quality food products to consumers. 5) provide bait to local recreational fishermen, 6) provide restaurants with a reliable source of local crabs.
Most of us have little knowledge or concern about methane. But this small molecular gas in the air could play a major role in the future of aquaculture or even for humanity itself.
Much of the recent news about methane is draped in political controversy. I don’t want to step into that discussion. The purpose of this post is simply to establish why methane could be more important in the future of aquaculture.
Atmospheric methane is a natural gas produced by plant decay that normally has little effect. However it’s levels are increasing rapidly in our air. It is believed to have a greater impact on atmospheric warming than CO2 due to its molecular structure.
Most methane is naturally produced without human involvement.
The largest source of methane is wetlands.
Sea level rise (and other factors) is triggering a sharp and dangerous increase in atmospheric methane.
Draining and development of wetlands through management of sea level rise response decreases methane production.
, creating man-made wetlands like rice paddies or fish ponds increases methane production.
Oysters and shellfish aquaculture is implicated in methane production.
There is a lot of news about methane in the past few weeks. We will need to wait until the dust settles to see any useful trend in government response to know what real long term impact any of this news has on management of wetlands. I posted a primer on methane gas including points note related to aquaculture on my personal blog titled “15 basic facts about methane and the environment“.
Yesterday I attended the annual alumni homecoming event for my alma mater Delaware Valley University in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. I am biased of course but I think DelVal is the ultimate stronghold of agricultural entrepreneurship in this part of the country. Many of the region’s farm and food company managers are fellow alumni.
I sat with a classmate from the agricultural school with the same age and major. He and his wife listened to my story of seafood expansion at Money Island. Then I asked them what they did. They are both retired from a local pharmaceutical firm. Here I am just starting out in a new business venture at age 57. Classmates are retired. The contrast hit me hard. Our paths over the past 35 years since we parted at commencement in 1982 led to vastly different positions in life.
We discussed the challenges of Nantuxent Seafood: dealing with government
, rising water levels, Sandy recovery, and capital needs. They listened to my comments and offered words of encouragement “We know you’ll be successful”. Then they asked “How can we do to support you?” All I could suggest was that I am active on social media and that I am working on several crowdfunding ideas. We discussed why I thought crowdfunding was important to a venture like this. Community support for the future of sustainable aquaculture is as important as the funding itself. This conversation added to my inclination that I am ready to take the next steps in developing a support base through crowdfunding.
During the day I received valuable bits of advice from the former college president, the former dean of the agriculture school, and a successful business person who was a wrestling teammate. I take it all quite seriously. By the end of the day I left with a short ‘to do’ list to help bring Nantuxent Seafood to the next level. This coming week I expect to complete my HACCP federal seafood safety training certification, talk with existing environmental partners and open discussions with new potential financial partners.
A tale of two vastly different responses to sea level rise
Here in the middle Delaware Bay we are bordered by two states: Delaware on the west and New Jersey on the east. Both sides of the bay are equally affected by sea level rise. Both states have lost towns in the past decade to the effects of sea level rise. Both states are suffering from decline in value of bayfront farmland and shorefront properties. Governments in both states are struggling equally with the cost of maintaining public services under these higher water conditions. But that’s where the similarity ends. The actual planning for dealing with sea level rise is far different between the two states. I’ve been actively engaged in the sea level rise response actions in both states for more than a decade and the differences in official government actions have been astounding.
The State of Delaware has a fully developed sea level rise response plan with the input and involvement of all stakeholders. Starting back in 2009 the state held a number of educational public meeting to solicit the best ideas from a wide range of sources. The state is preparing for sea level rise between 1.6 feet and 4.9 feet above their present levels by the year 2100. You can read the resulting executive summary sea level rise response plan titled “Preparing for Tomorrow’s High Tide” with plenty more details on the state’s web site.
, the state’s primary official response is to truck sand to damaged shorelines and purchase, then demolish, homes that are in danger of increased flooding. This is not a sustainable response plan especially if sea level rise continues to advance by another 1.5 to 3 feet within our lifetime. New Jersey has recently come as far as to now officially recognize the risk of sea level rise response. You can read the state’s official positions here. The state’s web site positions still lag behind the most recent sea level rise research available through Rutgers and NOAA. To New Jersey’s credit
, the state is now taking sea level rise response seriously. We still have a long way to go. But we can and will develop a response plan that our residents can rely upon.
Now is the time of maximum opportunity for individuals and organizations to influence and contribute to our sea level rise response plan so that New Jersey will eventually catch up with the State of Delaware in meeting this challenge. No doubt Money Island’s educational/research community and the commercial fishing community will continue to have a lot to say on the topic. We know that sea level rise is a manageable phenomenon and are ready to embrace both the challenges and opportunities presented by sea level rise.
The Money Island NJ stabilization and redevelopment plan evolves a little each day. The work will likely take place in three stages:
Stage 1 is stabilization. The goal is to get the land cleared of prior debts and provide basic cash to ‘keep the lights on’ and be ready to move forward. The total needed is $20,000. This will be funded by insiders in conjunction with a crowdfunding project. The purpose of using crowdfunding Is to raise awareness and build a customer base in advance of new product offering.
Stage 2 is aquaculture development. The goal is to revitalize the local economy cash flow to ensure sustainability. The cost is approximately $120,000 to repurpose the submerged land. This will be funded through Nantuxent Corporation that will use both traditional and equity crowdfunding methods. Aquaculture and dock-to-table seafood processing businesses are ready to expand as soon as permits are issued.
Stage 3 is multi-use redevelopment with new eco-tourism based housing, transient docking
, retail and restaurant. This will cost millions and require an outside investor working in conjunction with the developer. We hope to reach an agreement on an educational/research building here as an anchor facility.
Today The Wall Street Journal ran an article talking about the effects of consolidation on the U.S. agricultural industry. Today 75% of all farmland is controlled by the 12% largest farming corporations. The results are clear. Many of us were impacted by Michael Moore’s “Food Inc.”. Small farms can avoid those negative results but the ability of a small farm to reach minimum critical income (the article mentions $50
,000 per year) to survive has become more and more difficult.
The same trend affects the seafood industry. Almost everyone recognizes that the monopolization of the harvesting and distribution system is not healthy for the overall economy. Yet it is very difficult for a small operator to reach a minimum level of profitability. In addition, existing firms do all they can to prevent competition from small competitors.
I’ve cited this issue before. Older larger firms do not welcome new startups like those we host. There are plenty of examples of this business tactic in history from fishing and seafood businesses around the country. our harvesters have been told that we’ll never be able to buy some licenses and that existing firms will take deliberate steps to prevent us from expanding, easing growing grounds, etc. One large operator even sent a message through two watermen that he intended to spend money to keep us out of the business. It’s a ridiculous strategy but one that is common in the industry nonetheless.
The untapped market demand for agriculture and fishery products exceeds any additional production we can collectively add. It will certainly take effort to expand these markets and that is where we need o focus our attention and resources.
Farm-to-table and dock-to-table businesses will be successful if consumers vote their support with their dollars. Investors come aboard with necessary funding when they see the direction of consumer preferences. It’s really that simple. If consumers care where their food comes from, want a personal connection with the producers, demand accountability for safety and environmental responsibility, then small producers have a bright future. It comes down to an effort to spread the word and sell the story of sustainable local food from small producers.
Small farms and fisheries still have a long way to go to reach the average consumer’s attention. The United States Department of Agriculture is already heavily involved in helping to spread the message that diversity in food production is healthy for America’s future. We’ll continue to do our best to continue to spread the message.
, on the five-year anniversary of superstorm Sandy, Baysave Corporation announces the release of the first public draft of the redevelopment plan for Money Island, New jersey. We wish to thank all those in government and private industry who played a role in bringing us to this point.
A new way to use climate change models developed by NOAA may be used to forecast effects on Delaware Bay fisheries according to a recent news report. The basic conclusion, as I understand it from a range of conversations with researchers and a reading of the available information, is that the changes forecast for our Delaware Bay will make the bay more challenging for oyster growers but potentially more favorable for blue claw crabs.
The Virginia Pilot reports “NOAA said its researchers might apply the same “downscaling” method to predict the potential effects of climate change on other species such as blue crabs and striped bass and other estuaries
, including the Delaware Bay.” Other published seafood industry publications have predicted that these same forces of water temperature warming and acidification might actually benefit blue claw crabs.
My own opinion, not necessarily shared by researchers or the oyster industry*, is that resistant strains of oysters will be developed to combat the adverse effects of climate change (vibrio and acidification) but that seafood consumers will eventually insist on seafood (including oysters) that is sterilized through some procedure to kill any potential pathogens prior to consumption. That technology exists today but is not widely used. In the end
, these development are more likely to have greater (positive) impact on funding for the scientific community by triggering the need for more research and development than on consumers or the seafood industry.
*Opinions expressed in this blog are my own and do not represent the opinions of any of the commercial or educational firms associated with Nantuxent Corporation.