NJ - Coronavirus Lockdown Devastates Jersey Shore's Historic Fishing Boat Industry
The coronavirus pandemic poses an existential threat to the already beleaguered for-hire fishing boat industry in New Jersey, captains of party boats along the Jersey shore told Breitbart News.
The business owners are urging both state and federal governments to allow them to make a living or help them survive the lockdown.
Party boats offer rides – ranging from half a day to several-day trips, depending on the targeted fish – for those seeking to fish recreationally. The angler pays for their ticket and receives a space on the boat, bait, and service from the mates on board, who help bring the fish aboard and often filet the catches.
The boats are particularly attractive to families and beginner fishermen as they are guaranteed the guidance of a captain who knows where the fish are and the patience of mates willing to explain how to fish and offer tips on how to do it. They also help fishermen who do not have the income to buy and maintain a boat experience deep sea fishing.
Charter boats offer a similar service to smaller groups for those who wish not to fish around strangers or have more control of the experience.
For decades, party and charter boats have offered rides to interested customers in New Jersey for species like bluefish, both summer and winter flounder, black sea bass, striped bass, blackfish, and other native species. Initially, the boats catered almost exclusively to those with a passion for fishing and eating fresh fish, offering the opportunity to earn back much of your ticket on the boat in a fresh and edible catch.
Increasingly stringent environmental regulations have made this marketing strategy unviable, however, as limits on the size and number of fish each individual can take home make it impossible to catch back your fare. Add to that the skyrocketing costs of boat fuel, bait, insurance, and marina rent, and the captains have been forced to increase the price of their service in the face of dwindling demand.
National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) records show as many as 50 party boats closed up shop in New Jersey between 1996 and 2019. Congress passed the Sustainable Fisheries Act in 1996, which granted sweeping powers to federal regulators to limit how much recreational fishing businesses could catch from the ocean.