New Jersey Tilapia Culture

According to a recent survey conducted by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, over 30 aquaculture operations in New Jersey currently employ approximately 90 full time and 81 part-time employees. Total farm-gate sales value of reported harvest was approximately $5,787,000. Applying a standard fisheries multiplier of six, the economic contribution of aquaculture to New Jersey is approximately $34,722,000 annually.

The primary focus of aquaculture in New Jersey is the hard clam. These operations typically spawn and raise larvae and juveniles in on-shore hatcheries; plant larger juveniles on prepared and protected leased bottoms; and harvest the clams when they reach market size.

There is not a shortage of tilapia being grown in this region at a commercial scale (PA, MD, VA, NY).  However, none in New Jersey.  Most of the tilapia consumed in the US comes from overseas (Asia) and arrives here less expensive that our domestic cost of production.  I think there is a market for domestic tilapia given the food safety concerns of imported seafood, but no specific demand for tilapia grown in NJ.

The first question should be, “Is it possible to sell domestically grown tilapia profitably?”

The tilapia grown by someone else would be purchased by you for markets that you have developed.  If you are not successful at this price, there is a good chance that you would not have been able to GROW and SELL tilapia in the first place.  You avoided a VERY costly investment in a farm that did not work.

However, if you are able to be profitable selling someone else’s tilapia, then you can use your information gathered about margins and sales volume to scale a proper tilapia production farm.  At that point, it is a make-or-buy business decision.  Accounting for risk-on-return, is it a better business move to build your own production capacity, or to expand your sourcing from others.

(Source: Joseph J. Myers, MS, MBA, PMP®, Office of Aquaculture Coordination Division of Agricultural & Natural Resources, New Jersey Department of Agriculture)


The New Jersey Department of Agriculture does issue Aquatic Farmer Licenses.  That information is below.

A Guide to Developing Aquaculture in New Jersey assists with provisions of the Aquatic Farmer License, as well as other technical and regulatory aspects of establishing an aquaculture business in New Jersey.  The first Aquaculture Rule became effective on June 7, 2004 and was recently reissued.  Mandated by the 1997 New Jersey Aquaculture Development Act, Subchapter 2 of the Rule establishes an Aquatic Farmer License Program.  I have also included an Aquatic Farmer License application.

Although we have exhausted our print copies, the publication Recommended Management Practices for Aquatic Farms, can be obtained at  This document includes agricultural management practices, which afford aquatic farmers protections under the Right to Farm Act of 1998, and also establish a health management plan, which is also one of the subchapters of the Rule.  These documents are also available on-line at

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