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South Jersey fishing ports escape brunt of storm, but fleet damage extensive up north

New Jersey's commercial fishing industry is asking the federal government to declare a "fisheries disaster" from Hurricane Sandy that could lead to aid to rebuild.

The Garden State Seafood Association, a trade group based in Cape May, has asked Gov. Chris Christie to seek the declaration from the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to make the declaration. The U.S. Department of Commerce oversees the National Marine Fisheries Service.

"Hopefully, within 24 to 48 hours we'll have something from the governor. We're hoping to save and assist some northern ports with extensive damage," said GSSA Executive Director Greg DiDomenico.

Ports in Monmouth County and Ocean County, including the docks at Point Pleasant Beach suffered the brunt of the damage. DiDomenico said they need "nuts, bolts, fishing boats and ice makers."

"We have to get the infrastructure up to do some commerce again," said DiDomenico.

Fleets in southern ports such as Cape May, Barnegat Light and Port Norris suffered "bumps and bruises" but are in good shape, though DiDomenico said there has been a loss of revenue from the storm because nobody was fishing. Flooding in Cape May Harbor impacted some fishery operations but only for a short time.

The association is not seeking lost income but wants money to repair infrastructure. Congress cannot provide assistance unless a disaster is declared.

New Jersey's fishing industry landed almost $200 million worth of seafood in 2011 and this generated more than $1 billion in economic activity. The storm, DiDomenico noted, is not just impacting fishermen but is also hurting welders, fuel distributors, dockside operators and other ripple businesses.

"Fishermen should be getting back out and hopefully the resource is intact and the squid and scup will cooperate," he said.

Ernie Panecek, who runs the Viking Village docks in Barnegat Light, said they only suffered minimal damage but none of the smaller boats has been out fishing for days. One larger boat that weathered the storm in New Bedford is due in today.

"The only real loss is not being able to fish. Our power came on Saturday night but we haven't tried to make ice yet," Panecek said.

 

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