Shore fisheries, recreation concerned with Sandy recovery aid

Posted: January 24, 2014

Representatives of commercial and recreational fisheries and other iconic Jersey Shore activities hobbled by Sandy expressed concern Wednesday that the pot of money they hoped would help them recover will be spread too thin.

"We will be competing with Alaska and Massachusetts," said Tom Fote of the Jersey Coast Anglers Association, referring to a pool of $75 million in federal appropriations approved by Congress, but not limited to Sandy-ravaged areas, as they had lobbied for. "We have the West Coast with salmon issues. It'll be a battle."

Fote and others convened on a teleconference call organized by U.S. Strong, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that has been advocating a dedicated source of federal funding for future extreme weather relief and protection.

Advocates for both recreational and commercial fishing interests said recovery is at best incomplete.

"The timing of Hurricane Sandy couldn't have been worse," said Paul Eidman, a captain and owner of Reel Therapy Fly & Light Tackle Fishing Charters in Monmouth County. "It was right in the middle of striped bass and blackfish season. The economy had hurt us long before Sandy, but when Sandy hit, it seemed to put the last nail in the coffin for a lot of us recreational fishermen."

With waterways impassable, docks destroyed, boats totaled, and tourism down, the billion-dollar economy built up around these activities wilted, down anywhere from 34 percent to 42 percent.

"The boats that survived never went into the water," said Fote. "People are still rebuilding their houses, boats still sitting on the same trailer they've been on. There was a huge economic impact."

Fote, along with Pola Girard Galie of the New Jersey Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs and Chris Zeman of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, called for overhauling the disaster funding process and for money to be allocated now for research into how to be better prepared for the next extreme weather event.

They urged Gov. Christie and the coastal congressional delegation to fight hard for a piece of the reduced funding.

The funding process should not be the "gut-wrenching roller coaster ride" that storms themselves are, said Zeman.

"After Sandy, Congress took 91 days to approve emergency funding," he said. "That alone would justify dialogue now before the next inevitable superstorm."

He said the delay in funding meant windows of good weather were lost for repairs to marinas and piers and took an added toll on getting back in time for the peak season.

John Weber of the Surfrider Foundation said recreational activities are not expendable in the coastal economy. He said a study in Oregon showed that recreational activities had twice the economic impact of similar commercial activities. Surfrider is conducting research to see if that holds true in New Jersey.

"It's about getting the entire community back," Weber said. "We need to rethink the Jersey Shore, rethink how we pay for future storms like Sandy."

Fote said fisheries need aid to compensate for changes to the beach landscape due to dune and beach replenishment, which typically dry up surf fishing spots and require extending piers or walkways to deeper waters.

Congress initially considered a $150 million package to be split between New York and New Jersey, but that never got approved. Instead, the $75 million aid was approved for the entire country.

"A lot of people who fish with such enthusiasm, we're losing faith," said Adelaide Franklin, owner of Main One Marina Inc. in Avon-by-the-Sea, who told of being unable to collect on insurance, ending up with a check for $400. "We made it through and we're holding our own, but if I got hit again, I think I'd have to throw in the towel. It's just too hard."


arosenberg@phillynews.com

609-823-0453

@amysrosenberg

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