As economic circumstances continue to ebb and flow in the United States, so too does the commercial fishing industry. In Newport, Rhode Island, a central location for commercial and industrial fishing on the Atlantic Ocean, some recent changes to the area are having a sizable impact on local fishermen. Facing an uncertain future, how these and other fishing operations adapt will prove critical to the future of the industry.
A Rich Commercial Fishing Tradition
Newport, Rhode Island is home to a natural harbor that has been historically hospitable to fishermen. Between the Atlantic Ocean and the nearby Narragansett Bay, Flounder, Mackerel, Perch, Tuna, and Fluke have been bountiful for previous generations to enjoy. Newport Harbor at one point in time was able to accommodate more than 150 wharves, and in the mid-1900s, it was one of the nation’s most profitable fishing ports. Unfortunately, tides have turned for commercial fishermen in the area.
Difficult Waters Ahead
Beginning in the 1970s, Newport turned into a desirable tourism destination on the eastern seaboard. While visitors brought an influx of cash to the area, they also brought pressure on landowners to maximize the value of their waterfront holdings. This began a slow and steady decay of the infrastructure needed to support commercial fishermen, as fueling stations, bait shops, and markets began evaporating from the port. Docking fees also have skyrocketed to accommodate yachts and large pleasurecraft, squeezing out smaller fishing operations. Since 2011, commercial fishery landings have shrunk by nearly 70 percent in the area.
Environmental changes have also played a role in diminishing the local fishing industry. As pollution has continued and water temperatures have risen, fish yields have decreased by more than 80 percent since 1898. With a multitude of factors impacting the economic sustainability of commercial and industrial fishing in the area, new operations and younger fishermen are rare. With the already paltry number of fishing operators nearing retirement, the overall field of businesses is poised to continue to dwindle.
Opportunity Persists on the Open Water
As recently as the 1980s, the commercial fishing business in Newport could be quite lucrative. It was during this time that federal fishing waters were expanded by 200 miles, greatly opening the possibilities for sizable catches. Even today, the demand for seafood in the area is considerable. With younger generations more conscientious of where their food comes from, the demand for fresh, locally caught seafood has also increased.
Some commercial fishermen have also successfully adjusted the scope of their businesses. As tourism continues to boom in the area, charter fishing operations have become an in-demand activity for visitors to Newport. Since commercial fishermen have the boats and knowledge to accommodate this market, they are proving that there is still money to be made the old-fashioned way in Newport Harbor.
Keep Your Commercial or Industrial Fishing Operation Afloat
If you operate a commercial trapping or fishing business on the Atlantic, make sure your permits and licenses are up-to-date. At the Commercial Fishing Permits Center, we offer a one-stop, convenient website where you can complete all of your applications quickly and accurately. Contact us today to learn more.