It's a drop in the fishing bucket, but New York has begun to distribute $6.7 million in relief aid to the state's seafood, marine commercial, and for-hire fishing industries after excessive business losses due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In the coming weeks, award recipients will receive a letter accompanied by a check, based on reported economic loss experienced in 2020 compared to the previous five years.
New York will also be awarded an additional $5.7 million in the coming months, for a total of $12.4 million, to be distributed through the Marine Fisheries Relief Program, which administers federal funding provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and the Consolidated Appropriations Act.
East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, who pushed along with other East End lawmakers for the federal government to allocate more relief funds for the fishing industry here, said in a release this week that he is pleased that this "much-needed relief" has arrived. "Restaurant closures and cutbacks due to the virus reduced the demand for seafood, leaving both of those industries, along with others, economically impacted by the pandemic."
In addition, Suffolk County recently announced the launch of the Long Island commercial fishing survey. The survey, developed in partnership with the Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning, New York Sea Grant, Cornell Cooperative Extension Marine Program, and the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, will help the county develop an up-to-date profile of the Long Island commercial fishing industry, which has been especially hard-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Long Island's heritage is tied directly to our fishing and aquaculture industries," Suffolk County Executive Steve Ballone said in a statement. "When we had to shut down last spring to beat back Covid-19 and save lives, the commercial fishing industry, like so many others, suffered. But there is good news, we are working to build back stronger than ever and this needs assessment survey will identify key points and allow us to provide the resources needed to ensure this industry thrives."
The information and data collected through the survey will highlight the needs of local fishermen and will guide and assist agencies in providing the resources necessary to continue to support a viable and sustainable fishing industry. The survey will differ from years prior by including targeted questions about how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected commercial fishermen on Long Island. The survey will include questions on the profitability of the industry over the last year and moving forward, questions on revenues over the last year, and changes to the business model over the last year, among others.
"Commercial fishermen, by the very nature of their business, have lived through the highs and lows of changes to fish stocks and regulations, weather events like Hurricane Sandy, and now Covid-19," said Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, based in Montauk. "Suffolk County's commercial fishing survey could not come at a better time to assess the needs of this heritage industry to rebuild and grow our markets even stronger than before."
According to Suffolk County, in 2019 over 350 commercial fishing operators in the county landed over 19 million pounds of fish valued at over $27 million. These revenues generated an additional $47.4 million in economic activity, additional earnings of $15.4 million, and 656 additional jobs.
"Commercial fishermen in Suffolk County catch some of the most nutritious, sustainable species in the United States," said August Ruckdeschel, chairman of the Suffolk County Food Policy Council. "But the industry is still struggling in a post-Covid world. We hope the results from the survey will demonstrate the value of our local fisheries and help us identify opportunities for economic growth within the industry."