Biloxi charter boat captain worries about his industry

By Jeff Lawson – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Tom Becker is worried about the future of the industry he loves. Becker is a charter boat captain who operates his boat out of the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor. He is so concerned about what is happening to his industry, he wants lawmakers in Washington to do something about it.

Times have not been good lately for charter boat captains, whether it be here or anywhere else around the nation.

"Last year was the worst year I ever had, and that was including my first year in business," Becker said during a recent interview beside his boat 'Skipper.'

Tom Becker should know, after all he has been taking people out fishing for a very long time. The last 25 years have provided this retiree from the Air Force with a lot of great memories.

"Oh, the best of times were the early 90s," he recalled. "We could go out there and come back with a load of fish of everything."

Now Becker is worried the good old days for the charter boat fishing industry are just that, a long ago memory that won't come back.

"It was just a time you knew the fish were there, and then the laws became tougher."

Those laws Becker is referring to are among the reasons he believes the charter boat business is in trouble. He blames an organization called The National Fisheries Council for a lot of regulations he considers absurd. For instance, the limit of two snapper per fishermen that was instituted by the council two years ago.

"They say we over fished it by 1.2 million pounds. But I call that a terribly flawed and wrong number," Becker said.

In his opinion, a lot of people who are making those decisions are sitting at a desk somewhere and clueless when it comes to the real world of the charter boat captain. According to Becker, it is time they change their approach to the problem.

"Let's not use this old flawed data. Give us some leeway, because you are killing us," Becker said. "The people are not coming, the trips are way down, boats are for sale."

Becker said it has gotten so bad that many of those involved in the fishing industry in some capacity will be in Washington, D.C. next month. They want those in power to listen and finally take action.

Estimates for the march run as high as 3,000 people. It's set for February 24.

Becker said he is cautiously optimistic they finally may have the ear of those in power in Washington.

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