How a bill could impact local fishermen

How a bill could impact local fishermen

The US Senate will discuss a bill with life-changing potential for area commercial and charter fishermen. The bill would give grant money to teach fishermen the business side of catching fish.

The Destin charter fleet is the biggest in the country. The bipartisan bill hopes to get younger fishermen aboard and keep the fleet vibrant.

Captain Gary Jarvis was still in the Air Force when he started working on commercial and charter boats.

"It was just something that was in my blood, I think that's what attracts most people to become professional fishers. The challenges Mother Nature throws at you everyday and an independent spirit to do your own thing and work for yourself," Jarvis said.

He worked his way up. Now, he owns his boat and several restaurants thanks to his rods, reels and business acumen.

"It changes your approach to fishing because now you have to incorporate the skill of fishing into the business aspect of it," he said.

But he worries about the future of the fleet.

"Yes, Destin will still be here, and the beaches will still be here, but man what a crime, what a shame it'd be if the heritage of this community was lost because we didn't keep up with the times," Jarvis said.

A big problem, with the high cost of entrance and a shortage of younger captains, the charter fleet could age itself out of existence. However, a new bill on the floor of the Senate hopes to give younger fishermen a hand up.

The bill would allocate grant money to programs designed to teach younger fisherman how to secure boat loans, market themselves, fish sustainably and other skills they may not learn on board, but are crucial to success.

Deric Kante is a young deckhand the bill targets.

"I think it'd be a good idea, there's a lot to learn when it comes to running a business besides just catching fish and a lot of people need to know that," he said.

He doesn't want to fish forever, but said many other deckhands do. In his mind the bill is a way for guys his age to have a future in Destin.

"A lot of us down here, we are looking to do this for the rest of our lives. Own our own charter boat one day and go out here and catch fish every day and put a smile on people's faces," Kante said.

The bill has also been introduced into the House of Representatives. It still needs to be passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President before it can become law.

Those potential grants come with limits though. The bill allows a maximum of $200,000 in grant money for each program every year.

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