PICTURED – Rep. Smith, center, sees off the Dauntless as it casts off May 20 on its first fishing trip of the season from its home port in Point Pleasant Beach, Ocean County. At left are charter boat Captain David Goldman of Shore Catch Guide Service, and Recreation Fishing Alliance legal counsel Captain Ray Bogan at right.
Six-foot social distancing to be maintained
FREEHOLD—Congressman Chris Smith, whose Fourth Congressional District includes several popular Jersey Shore fishing basins including Belmar, Brielle and Point Pleasant, welcomed the decision, effective today, to lift the COVID-19 restrictions limiting the number of anglers permitted on charter and head boats, as long as all anglers adhere to 6’ social distancing protocols.
“This could not have come a moment too soon. While overdue, this is still great news,” said Rep. Smith, who has been pushing hard for healthy, safe and economically-sound reopening of the Jersey Shore fishing boat industry.
“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 a year. Losing the months of March, April, May and half of June has been financially devastating.
On May 16, Governor Murphy signed Executive Order No. 146 allowing up to 10 total passengers on party boats. However, sailing with less than a dozen paying passengers was not economically viable 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.
“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.
In addition to advocating for the safe and economically-sound re-opening of the for-hire fishing industry, Smith has also supported federal emergency programs—such as the Paycheck Protection Program—to help the fishing industry, as well as tens of thousands of other small businesses in New Jersey, sustain operations while battling the economic devastation of the coronavirus pandemic.