By Lauren Wanko
When many people think of the Barnegat Bay, recreational fishing, crabbing and boating all come to mind, not so much the business of the bay. These waters generate as much as $6 billion in annual economic impact for the Garden State.
“A large portion of that, that comes into the shore come from people that recreational boat,” said Key Harbor Marina owner Fred Bruegemann.
Bruegemann depends on the bay for his business, which has increased since Sandy struck. Twenty-eight percent of New Jersey’s fleet is kept in the Barnegat Bay. The owners of those boats help generate between $590 million and $740 million of economic impact annually to New Jersey and 5,000 to 6,000 jobs.
“Of any county in state, Ocean County has highest economic value from boating. Any governor would want to attract and protect this in their state. Any governor would want to attract an industry that would employ 5,000 people,” said University of Delaware’s Jerry Kauffman.
“It’s not just the boats. The boats are kinda like the spider that casts its web and it effects all kinds of businesses — grocery stores, liquor stores, gas stations on roads and hair salons,” Bruegemann said.
And restaurants too. At Captain’s Inn in Forked River about 30 percent of their summer business comes from boating.
“We have 25 slips that you can come up for dinner for the tiki bar,” said Deb Abrahamovic-Kay.
Captain’s Inn also relies on the bay for its menu.
“We get our clams local. Food prices rise if we have to import everything single thing,” said Abrahamovic-Kay.
Fish and wildlife around Barnegat Bay generates $189 million a year in economic impact to the Garden State.
University of Delaware’s Jerry Kauffman conducted a study on the Barnegat Bay’s economic impact. He says efforts to keep the bay clean are vital for its economic growth.
“So there’s a direct link we’re finding now. That is if you improve water quality there is a direct link to the economy. So the bottom line is it’s worth investing in the bay for a few million dollars you can realize a benefit cost ratio of 5 to 10 to 1 and any industry would want to have that kind of turn,” Kauffman said.
Lacey’s Marina targets customers gearing up for a day on the water.
“The bay is extremely important because we sell everything from bottom paint for the boats and hundreds of boats around with all the lagoon and bayfront homes all the way to our fishing industry,” Ronald Tholen said.
Recreational use of Barnegat Bay generates $1.58 billion a year in economic impact.
As summer seems to slowly approach this year, these business hope the booming business on the bay will only increase this summer.