South Jersey Perspectives: Building the Blue Economy
Three years ago, I had the opportunity to serve on Governor Murphy’s Atlantic City Restart and Recovery Committee. The committee was chaired by the late Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver. The plan was to create a strategy to assist with the city’s post-pandemic economic development. During that time, I advocated for idea of the “Blue Economy” as a pillar for economic growth.
The World Bank, an international financial institution created to assist developing countries and maintain economic stability, defines the blue economy as the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, to improve livelihoods and jobs, along with saving the ocean ecosystem health. For South Jersey, the blue economy means utilizing our shore and ocean in new and innovative ways to bring environmentally sustainable economic growth. A few of these innovations include climate change mitigation, sustainable fisheries, shipbuilding, renewable energy and eco-tourism.
For our shore areas, climate change mitigation could be implemented by exploring coastal carbon sequestration. Saltwater marshes, which New Jersey has 200,000 acres of them, absorb carbon. Carbon heats the planet, causing climate change. By expanding saltwater marshes, shore areas could sell carbon credits. This system would produce an income stream for shore communities while helping the environment. It should be noted that carbon sequestration has taken on greater significance due to funding provided by the Inflation Reduction Act.
Aquaculture and fisheries are an important but often overlooked aspect of our shore economies. This industry needs to be supported and utilized for job creation. At the same time, the industry should be provided assistance in becoming more sustainable through technology and best practices. One such best practice is regenerative ocean farming, an example is a system developed by Green Wave (www.greenwave.org ). The Green Wave system yields seaweed and shellfish with zero inputs and at a low-cost. The Green Wave system also provides the added benefits of creating a carbon sink and storm surge protection.
Shipbuilding is another major regional industry that deserves more support. Just as we are moving towards zero-emissions cars through tax credits and infrastructure investments, similar investments should be considered for ships and watercrafts.
The South Jersey shore already has an advantage in becoming a hub for renewable energy with offshore wind development. Despite the demagoguery of some of our leaders against the project, offshore wind would be an environmental and economic game changer. Offshore wind not only has the potential to provide carbon-free energy, it would create jobs in manufacturing, construction and research and development. Offshore wind was supported on a bipartisan basis in 2015 and is perceived to be beneficial as we begin implementation.
Finally, we cannot forget tourism. The previously discussed blue economy initiatives can provide new attractions to draw tourists to the area. Some examples of this new tourism include: kayaking near expanded salt marshes; a revitalized Atlantic City Aquarium and boat tours to see wind turbines.
Trips to the beach and visits to the casinos have been a great economic boom to our regional economy. There is a problem when we become over-dependent on such activities. As we learned in the pandemic and will witness when casinos open in New York City, any decline sends a shudder thru the region. Therefore, we must consider innovative solutions that adapt to changing circumstances while leveraging our best asset, the ocean.
Joseph F. Ingemi, Jr. resides with his family in Hammonton, where he works as a technology consultant and serves as an adjunct professor at Seton Hall University. He is a US Army veteran and holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Duke University. Joe is active in regional non-profits. The opinions expressed are strictly his own.