The Delaware Bay remains empty. The State of New Jersey is hard hit by the coronavirus with the second highest number of cases of all states in the nation. Here in South Jersey, the rate of spread, measured in the number of infections and deaths, has not yet peaked. Our fishing and related industries are especially hard hit. With restaurants closed, the commercial markets for fish are closed. Marinas lost most of their 2020 rentals. Recreational fishing and party boats have been shut down. Here at Money Island, the effect is amplified. Money Island is the state’s second most productive seafood landing port and the bay’s primary oyster landing port. Yet in 2020, landings are minuscule compared to other years. Most of our commercial boats are not operating. The crab shedding operation is closed. Some local businesses have already announced publicly that they are unable to reopen this season. Others are suffering silently.
The CARES Act allocated $300 million for the commercial fisheries industry. Some of my clients hope to recoup partial losses from this money. Yet more than a month after the law was passed, no funds have been distributed. The proposal that NOAA offered is unfair to New Jersey in that it is based solely on dollar value of the fishing industry last year and does not consider the impact of the virus had on the industry’s losses. Losses are clearly worse in New Jersey than in other seaboard states.
A number of industry groups and all New Jersey’s federal legislators are lobbying for us. A representative from Jeff Van Drew’s office called me Sunday. Yet I fell like I’ve been down this path before: seven years ago after super storm Sandy. After many months and years of intense work, no financial assistance was provided for recovery. Again this year, just like in the past, it is not the natural event but government’s reaction that is causing the financial pain.
The Money Island Marina is still in significant debt from Sandy losses. We missed a final scheduled tax debt repayment on April 1 because of the industry shut down. The prospects of reopening and sustaining any of the businesses here seems remote at this point.
We must keep trying, but there are no solutions on the immediate horizon.