Storm left the ocean cloudy, leaves scuba diving, fishing charters moored



Although Hurricane Dorian spared landlords along Florida’s east coast, Palm Beach County’s sport fishing and diving businesses were directly affected.

Choppy seas and persistent murky waters have forced diving and sport fishing operators to cancel reservations. Many haven’t had a single charter since the deadly Cat 5 storm bypassed the county three years ago.

“There is no visibility so the diving industry is taking a huge hit,” said Jim Abernethy, owner of Jim Abernethy’s Scuba Adventures. “We are canceling dives every day.”

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For most of the county’s tourism industry, the winter months are the busiest, with some businesses closing in August and September. For dive operators, September and August are the busiest. Labor Day weekend kicks off the Goliath grouper season.

Divers from across the country flock to Palm Beach County to see the huge fish that hang out on the wrecks off the county until September. Personalized dive charters sell out months in advance.

“I had a group from Oklahoma that had already made their plane reservations,” said Lisa Carroll, owner of the Jupiter Dive Center. Up to 80 divers a day book charters on its boats, Carroll said.

The county’s 26 dive rental companies – all small local businesses – transport approximately 162,000 divers to local reefs each year. About half are from outside Florida and generate $ 20 million in hotel revenue, according to local tourism data.

Divers pay around $ 80 for a two-tank charter. Equipment rental can cost well over $ 100. Additional income comes from certification and other classes. Overall, Dorian has cost dive operators hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The good news is the industry has recovered, Carroll said. Operators have reduced their fuel costs by taking turns going out to sea to check conditions daily and sharing information with each other. Operators in northern county, where conditions are the worst, are even directing their divers to boats further south.

Thousands of charter fishing boat owners and their workers are also suffering a financial blow.

Between Boca Raton Inlet and Jupiter Inlet there are over 1,000 charter boats, from drift boats, which charge around $ 50 per person for several hours of fishing, to deep sea sport fishermen, who can charge $ 800 for a half -fishing day. .

They too canceled charters because of rough seas and lousy fishing. Captain Bruce Cyr usually takes his drifting boat, Lake K, out of Lantana three times a day with 10 fishermen on board. Along with the lost revenue from canceled charters, there were also the additional costs of fuel and accommodation when he took the boat to the Florida Keys for four days to avoid the storm.

“We could have 7 am in the morning, not in the afternoon and nothing at night,” Cyr said. His losses run into tens of thousands of dollars. Although Dorian left behind a phenomenal fishing near shore, the waters off the coast remain murky, Cyr said. That, coupled with the lingering threat of seasickness in still rough seas, has decimated business.

“In one week, we lost $ 10,000 on their own,” Cyr said.

It doesn’t look like business will pick up for at least a few days. Growing seas are forecast as several storms head west across the Caribbean.

“Mother Nature is doing her thing and we are going day by day,” Cyr said.

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