By Captain Scott “Fraz” Murie
I’m here in Destin, Florida, the place known as “The Luckiest Fishing Village in the World.” Destin harbors the largest charter fishing fleet in the entire state of Florida and has also become an extremely desired tourist destination. Destin is the whole package—sugar white sandy beaches, emerald waters, good food and some of the best fishing anywhere. But like everywhere else in the nation, Destin got shut down at the beginning of our peak season, devastating the economy.
These shutdowns included restaurants, lodgings, fishing and many other tourist-driven businesses. I’ve owned a couple of charter boats in my past. It’s hard work and not a get-rich-quick occupation. The abrupt shutdown has put our local fishermen in dire straits financially.
Most charter captains had just finished their annual boat maintenance, refits, and dry docks, spending thousands of dollars just prior to the shutdown. They were totally depending on the spring season to pay for everything. Since the shutdown began, they have not wet a line or run a single charter. This began in the middle of March for us and now it’s the 1st of May.
Everyone is coming together to help one another but the house mortgage keeps coming, the boat mortgages keep coming, the insurance payments keep coming and it’s taking a financial toll on everyone. There are a few organizations out there that can help, like The Destin Fisherman Co-op, but they can only do so much.
It was slow to come, but the COVID-19 economic stimulus package passed by the U.S. Senate will include $300 million to provide economic relief for the fisherman. It is stated, “Thousands of fishermen across the nation, will now have access to grants and other forms of financial relief from NOAA.”
The provision was authored by Senator Maria Cantwell to support commercial and charter fishermen around the country. It would direct the Secretary of Commerce to distribute $300 million in financial assistance in the form of direct payments such as grants, as well as other forms of investments in the fishing industry.
Charter fishermen have already reported fewer bookings for upcoming fishing trips. While some fishing businesses may qualify for small business assistance or unemployment assistance, many fishermen do not. This new financial assistance will help all fishermen, including those who may not qualify for other forms of aid because they file as self-employed. I’m not sure of the red tape, but I would imagine there may be plenty.
If I could just give a word of encouragement, keep the faith. I love what Apostle Paul said in the book of Philippians, “My God shall supply all my needs according to his riches and glory by Christ Jesus!” Everything’s gonna be alright. Keep the faith.
– That’s my two-minute warning. Fraz
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