Congressman Chris Smith, Fourth Congressional District NJ, has been pushing hard for a safe, smart, and economically-sound reopening of New Jersey. While helping tens of thousands of small businesses sustain operations, with his support for emergency benefits such as the Paycheck Protection Program, during the COVID-19 Pandemic, one of the areas of focus for Smith has been the Jersey Shore fishing boat industry.
Smith has been a steady advocate for the safe and economically-sound re-opening of the for-hire fishing industry, On June 14th, Smith was pleased to welcome the decision, effective to lift the COVID-19 restrictions limiting the number of anglers permitted on charter and head boats, as long as all on-board adhere to social distancing protocols.
Smith's District includes several popular Jersey Shore fishing basins including Belmar, Brielle and Point Pleasant, “This could not have come a moment too soon. While overdue, this is still great news,” said Rep. Smith who continued; “Unfortunately, anglers have missed the beginning of fluke season, but the original relief of 25 passengers and now the unlimited access, gives this critical industry, as well as the related businesses such as bait & tackle shops, a fighting chance to recover more quickly and fully. I want to thank Governor Murphy for lifting these restrictions and re-opening this vital part of the Shore economy.”
The COVID-19 quarantine has been especially hard for the for-hire fishing boats, many of which operate for only eight to ten months out of the year. Losing the months of March, April, May, and half of June has been financially devastating to so many.
On May 16, Governor Murphy signed Executive Order No. 146 allowing up to 10 total passengers on party boats. While this was a step towards opening, sailing with less than a dozen paying passengers was not economically viable, especially for the party boats, some of which can hold over 100 passengers. On May 22—the opening day of fluke season—the number of passengers was raised from 10 to 25.
The June 14th decision to lift the COVID-19 restrictions limiting the number of anglers permitted on charter and head boats, (while still adhering to social distancing and other safety protocols), enables many folks who make an income from fishing boats to be back in business! “This decision does not allow the boats to run at full capacity due to social distancing requirements, but it will allow those in the fishing industry to earn a living and feed their families,” Smith added. According to Smith, in addition to the party boat fleets in Belmar, Brielle and Point Pleasant in his congressional district, there are also party fishing boats in Atlantic Highlands, Barnegat, Sea Isle City, Ocean City, Cape May and Fortesque.