Hurricane Sandy is still front and center in the minds of many in the marine trades and fishing industries, both recreational and commercial, and what happens with proposed federal assistance will have a huge impact on the availability of services to recreational fishermen in the coming year.
After the hurricane NOAA Fisheries declared a “Fisheries Disaster” and did a comprehensive damage assessment of commercial and recreational fishing businesses. The recreational side of the assessment was done with the help and support of Sea Grant agents in New York and New Jersey. The report estimated total uninsured losses approaching $200 million for New Jersey and New York’s fishing industries due to Sandy, but when Congress authorized and President Obama signed off on the original Sandy aid package only $5 million was included with the promise of a supplemental bill to make up the difference.
So far, that money has not been forthcoming and marinas, tackle shops and infrastructure that anglers have been taking for granted for years are on the ropes and many of the most heavily damaged might be unable to rebuild.
New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr., whose district encompasses some of the hardest hit areas of the Jersey shoreline, announced he will introduce a Sandy supplemental aid bill to specifically assist in the recovery from the fisheries disaster. Pallone’s legislation would provide $193 million to fully fund the estimated cost. The funding would support both commercial and recreational fishing industries. Recreational fishing infrastructure such as marinas, tackle and bait stores and public access points for fishing that were impacted by Sandy will be eligible for funds under the bill.
“Fishing is a strong contributor to the economy, providing our nation with fresh seafood and recreational opportunities,” said Pallone. “Now, it is our turn to support our fishermen by making a commitment of fisheries disaster assistance that really takes into account the amount of damage they suffered.”
The bill is already gaining traction throughout Congress, with fellow New Jersey Congressman John Runyan (NJ-03) and Long Island Congressman Tim Bishop (NY-01), whose districts were also badly damaged by Sandy, joining Pallone as original co-sponsors of the legislation.
“Eastern Long Island’s fishing industry was struggling even before Sandy dealt a devastating blow to the Montauk and Shinnecock fleets,” said Congressman Tim Bishop. “We know the scope of the fishery resource disaster in the Northeast, and now Congress needs to step up with funding sufficient to ensure the recovery of the Long Island fishery and the families that rely on it.”
We applaud Congressman Pallone’s efforts to get the ball rolling and hope that quick passage of the bill and distribution of the funds will help rebuild some of the infrastructure needed by fishermen in the region. Major concerns are lack of slip space, on-water fuel availability, tackle shops and repair of damaged launch ramps.