Rhode Island charter-boat captains have had a difficult time making ends meet for the last few years. Most agree their problems stem from too many governmental regulations and a still-sluggish economy.
Charter boats take on clients for a day of fishing or sightseeing and are seen as recreational – as opposed to commercial – for the sake of regulations.
Attitudes today are reflected in the Rhode Island Charter and Party Boat Survey of January 2011, conducted by Capt. Rick Bellavance, president of the Rhode Island Charter and Party Boat Association. Of the 214 recipients, 98 captains completed and returned the survey, revealing the following facts: Half of the charter and party captains believe their business will be worse off five years from now, and blame the difficulties facing their industry on regulations, the economy and increased operating costs. Half of captains say their revenue would increase if the fleet had its own allocation of fish, separate from private anglers and commercial fishermen. All captains believed they needed to be able to reduce their cost of operations and increase their client base in order to improve their revenue.
While most charters have experienced declines in business, they say the fishing remains good.
Capt. Norm Bardell owns and operates Busy Line Point Judith Fishing Charters, taking small groups for a day in the sun and fishing. Charters are available for fluke, black sea bass, bluefish and striped bass, the four primary fisheries. He even provides all the supplies. “This year has been slow, a slight improvement over last year but still very slow,” Bardell said. “On a lucky week I’ll make three runs. Most of [the charter boats] are sitting around the docks looking at one another, calling each other on the phone to make sure they are working.”