Assistance for Recreational Fishing Industry – Adjustments to Fishing Regulations and Seasons
COVID-19 is having a terrible effect on our recreational fishing industry with the for-hire fleet tied up to the docks due to social distancing. The for-hire fleet cannot sail, but that does not stop bills coming in for insurance, dockage and other fees.
The following is an email to commissioners who are directly involved in the decision making process requesting them to change fishing seasons and regulations to provide an opportunity for the for-hire fleet to recoup their losses due to COVID-19.
To: Chris Moore, Ex. Director, Bob Beal, Ex. Director, Peter Hughes, Tony DiLernia, MAFCC Council Board, Adam Nowalsky, ASMFC Board Chairman
From: John Toth
Date: April 29, 2020
Subject: Assistance for Recreational Fishing Industry – Adjustments to Fishing Regulations/Seasons
C0VID-19 has changed the world we live in, especially with the recreational fishing industry. Social Distancing has basically shut down the charter/party boat industry and boat captains are facing financial ruin. We are in this lockdown situation until May 15th when Governor Murphy is expected to make his decision on whether our state will continue to be in this lockdown mode or relax his current restrictions on COVID-19.
Because of COVID-19, our state’s blackfish season for April has been lost and while the current striped bass fishing season is red-hot, our recreational fleet is tied up at dock. What is not tied up are the costs associated with running fishing boats such as insurance, dock fees, and maintenance costs. Faced with these costs and no business to offset them, the prospect of going out of business becomes more realistic and the only way out. Also, even if Governor Murphy lifts his present COVID -19 restrictions, a number of anglers may still be fearful of contracting this virus and delay or even stop fishing resulting in less business for the for- hire fleet. Given how many people have lost their jobs, many anglers will not have the income to go fishing, even if they want to.
What can be done to help this industry by Commissioners and Council Members that is fairly quick and without involving financial compensation? Consider adjusting fishing regulations/seasons so that there are longer seasons in the fall and have the possibility of different bag limits; anything to provide better opportunities for party/charter boat captains and the related industries that depend on them for summer flounder and black sea bass to recoup some of their losses. This consideration should also be extended to species that closures have had an effect on like the April 2020 season for Tautog that was essentially lost because of Social Distancing.
The joint MAMFC and ASMFC meeting scheduled for a webinar meeting on May 6th and the June 16 to June 18 meetings in Virginia Beach can provide a perfect opportunity to place this loss of business caused by COVID-19 on the meeting’s agenda for discussion and resolution. This issue needs quick attention so changes can be made in time to help make the recreational fishing industry recoup some of its losses before the 2020 fishing season ends.
We finally got a break in the weather today. Though small craft warnings are up until 8 p.m. for west gusts to 20 knots, the morning forecast is for southwest winds at just 10-15 knots.