Charter boat industry lobbies for relief

PENSACOLA, Fla. – Charter boat owners in many of the areas hit hard during the 2005 hurricane season have begun a campaign to convince Congress of the need for post-Katrina economic relief, the Associated Press reported in a story on over the weekend.

The National Association of Charter Boat Captains began a series of meetings with charter boat owners along the Gulf Coast in mid-October in Mississippi and will conclude the meetings in South Florida next month, according to the story.

In Mississippi and Louisiana, the association is working to compile the losses of entire charter boat fleets from Katrina. In many cases, boat owners had uninsured losses for items including tackle and other supplies, AP reported.

The 3,000-member group hopes to convince Congress to approve low-interest loans, grants and other assistance by compiling an economic impact survey of charter boat losses from recent hurricanes.

The association met Friday with Pensacola, Fla., boat owners.

“If there’s a silver lining to Katrina, it’s that we’ve come together as an industry across the Gulf,” said Bobbi Walker, executive director of the association, told the Pensacola group. “We are hoping this will make them realize the damage to our industry and put us on their radar screen.”

Bob Zales II, the association’s president, told AP that charter boat bookings are down 80 percent at his Panama City business since Katrina hit. He doesn’t expect business to improve anytime soon because of a wave of negative publicity about conditions on the Gulf Coast.

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