By Lauren Wanko
Twenty-two hundred pounds of fresh squid just arrived at the Point Pleasant Fishermen’s Dock Cooperative. Here it’s loaded off the commercial boats, weighed and packaged on ice.
“We are farmers of the sea. I think that’s something people need to understand. We’re harvesting the food they eat,” said Captain Jim Lovegren.
“It’s big business and vital to New Jersey’s economy. It accounts for about 50,000 jobs,” said Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher.
Commercial fisheries in New Jersey landed 180.5 million pounds of fin and shellfish in 2012, more than 100 different varieties valued at over $187.7 million.
“This type of money, it’s like printing dollar bills. We’re picking fish out of the ocean, we’re creating money,” Lovegren said.
Lovegren insists the economic impact of the Garden State’s commercial fishing industry is far greater than the numbers indicate.
“We’re billions of dollars a year when you figure out the value of the fish landings and the support industries that live off us — welding shops, diesel fuel, mechanics and restaurants,” he said.
Every morning the owner of Shore Fresh Seafood Market and restaurant purchases seafood from the fishermen right from the dock. Staffers insist that’s something that keep customers coming back.
Customers like Butch Durkin, who came in specifically to purchase the day’s fresh catch.
“Because it’s the best way to eat it! There’s nothing like it. It comes right off the boat. It’s fresh. It tastes fresh,” Durkin said.
The Garden state’s most valuable fishery in 2012 — sea scallops at $109 million.
“So it’s a huge catch of what we land here in the state,” Fisher said.
“It’s the essence of the shore — the fresh scallops, lobster, flounder. We have it down here,” said Shore Fresh Seafood Market and Restaurant owner Richard Brecka.
New Jersey fishermen generated the third largest dollar value of seafood landings on the East Coast behind Maine and Massachusetts.
“You name it, if it’s in the Mid-Atlantic, it landed here, even tuna,” Lovegren said.
Fifteen hundred pounds of yellowfin tuna landed on this day.
“We fish up and down the East Coast chasing yellowfin trying to give everybody local seafood,” said fisherman Brian Sokoloski.
And although the seafood here is shipped all over the East Coast, the locals are certainly hooked.