Message from NACO supporting Great Lakes Charter Boat owners

Reprinted with permission from the NACO newsletter- message to a committee of legislators

Disaster relief funds for Great Lakes for hire charter boat owners

I am President of the National Association of Charterboat Operators (NACO) representing charter boat owners and operators across the country from Alaska to Maine and including the Great Lakes. NACO has a substantial number of members from the Great Lakes Region including 2 Board Members. As y’all know the recent passage of the Cares Act provided $300 Million in covid-19 virus disaster relief funds to the Department of Commerce to provide to charter and commercial fishermen small family businesses as well as fish processors, Tribes, and others dependent on the fishing industries. The NOAA/NMFS released their plan for distribution on May 8th and unfortunately none of the funds were provided to charter boat owners who fish the Great Lakes. These funds were not dedicated to federal fisheries as the coastal states can provide funds to their state licensed charter boat owners. We see no difference between a state licensed charter boat owner along the coast and those who provide the same type service to folks who live in and visit the Great Lakes.

On behalf of the many for hire charter boat owners living and working in the Great Lakes who depend on that income to support their small family businesses, their families, and their communities we are requesting that you work to provide covid-19 virus disaster relief to them. We understand there will be another round of legislation created to further help with providing free financial help to folks across the country. Since the NOAA/NMFS has regulatory authority in the Great Lakes through the Marine Sanctuary Division and other regulations we suggest that it may be possible to include the Great Lakes in the next round as there is a current movement by many coastal Senators and Representatives to introduce a supplementary massive financial package to provide more funds to Commerce. If such a legislative vehicle does not provide for the Great Lakes we strongly suggest you work on legislation specific to the fishermen in the Great Lakes.

The for hire charter industry in our country is in dire straits due to the unforeseen disaster created by the covid-19 virus. As small family businesses, mostly sole proprietors/self-employed people, they need serious financial help in order to survive this epidemic. These small businesses are usually multi-generational and provide unique services to the public for much needed recreation. They provide the expertise on where and what to fish for making great lifelong memories for families and children. They need your help.

According to the American Sportfishing Association report “Sportfishing in America, an Economic Force for Conservation, January 2013” using data for the Great Lakes from 2011, recreational fishing in the Lakes provided over $2.9 BILLION in Retail Sales which results in a ripple effect of over $7 BILLION, provided over $2 BILLION in salaries and wages, provided over 49,000 jobs resulting in over $500 MILLION in federal tax revenues and over $400 MILLION in state and local tax revenues. I suggest these numbers are far higher for 2019. As you can clearly understand fishing is an important essential activity in the Great Lakes and we need to ensure the for hire charter boat owners remain viable in order to continue into the future.
Should you have any questions please contact me at the below.

Thanks for your consideration and we look forward to working with you to help these small families survive.

Capt Bob Zales, II
NACO President
ph 850-763-7249
“Honesty is the first chapter of the book of
Thomas Jefferson

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