While Superstorm Sandy did highly visible damage to homes, boardwalks and roads, it also walloped the Northeastern fishing industry, whose workers are hoping for a small piece of any future disaster assistance that Congress might approve.
The storm did millions of dollars’ worth of damage to docks, fish processing plants and restaurants. But it also caused millions more in lost wages to boat employees who couldn’t work for two to three weeks, to truck drivers who had nothing to transport, and to other assorted industries that service commercial fishing.
The $9.7 billion measure to fund the National Flood Insurance program, passed by Congress on Friday, did not include anything for the fishing industry; a bill the Senate passed in December would have allocated $150 million for that purpose.
Some of the worst damage to fisheries in the region occurred at the Belford Seafood Cooperative on the Raritan Bay shoreline in Middletown, where the pounding waves destroyed a 75-foot-long dock, gutted a popular restaurant, and ripped away all five garage doors and parts of the exterior of office and storage buildings. The co-op’s manager, Joe Branin, estimates the damage at close to $1 million.
“We went three weeks before we were able to pack a fish,” said Branin, whose business was still without electricity in mid-December. “We lost almost all our equipment. It was three weeks before anybody could do anything.”
The restaurant, where diners could eat scallops and fillets literally right off the boat, had provided $5,000 to $8,000 a week in revenue that is now gone.
The co-op supported 50 families who either work directly for it or in supporting roles. Many of those workers did without a paycheck for weeks afterward. The situation was the same at New Jersey’s Viking Village port on Long Beach Island’s Barnegat Light, where boats were idled.
“We couldn’t get to work for two weeks because the infrastructure was all torn up here,” said Bob Brewster, who owns three of the port’s 45 fishing boats and estimates he lost between $10,000 and $20,000 in lost catch.
In Hampton Bays, N.Y., Doug Oakland estimated two marinas he owns suffered between $800,000 and $1 million in damage. He estimates about a dozen other marinas in the eastern Long Island community were similarly affected.