Fishing charters, agriculture some of hardest hit industries during pandemic, survey finds

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne
Published: Updated:
Boats on Fort Myers Beach

The effects of the coronavirus pandemic are far-reaching, and officials hosted a Zoom press conference Tuesday to highlight its assessment of COVID-19 impacts on Florida.

They looked at the economic impact on the state’s agriculture, aquaculture and marine industries.

One of the findings shows that business closures were reported at higher rates across charter and commercial fishing industries than other sectors.

Gene Luciano, the owner of Dalis Fishing Charters, has been doing charters for 47 years.

“Well, it’s basically almost shut us down,” he said. “April I think I might’ve had two trips where normally we might run 30 to 40 trips.”

He said they also saw a devastating downturn after Hurrican Irma two-and-a-half years ago. “Then we had the blue-green algae which was unbelievable. Then we had just the red tide two years ago, red tide last year, and now this situation here.”

A month-long University of Florida study looking at COVID-19’s impact on agriculture, aquaculture and the marine industries uncovers how these differently these groups were affected.

The pandemic also hit during prime time for many growers in agriculture.

Dr. John Lai, assistant professor of agribusiness with UF/IFAS, explained that “those whose operations have felt impacts, 20 percent of respondents reported impacts over the course of about one to one-and-a-half months, and another 11 percent felt impacts for a little bit longer.”

Charter and fishing businesses reported the most closures.

Dr. Andrew Ropicki, assistant professor of marine economics with UF/IFAS said, “100% of the respondents indicated that their revenue decreased.”

But Luciano’s confident they’ll bounce back. “We’re in a great industry. We live in a great area. We’ve got the best weather in the world. The fishing is wonderful.”

The survey will be a baseline as the situation around COVID-19 evolves. The expectation is to conduct another survey this summer and in the future if businesses continue to feel an impact.

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