DESTIN, Fla. (WKRG) — Destin is known as the luckiest fishing village, but the majority of boats using the harbor are pontoon boats, not fishing boats.

A harbor study is underway for the Emerald Coast tourist destination. Preliminary numbers were published and given to the city council Monday, Oct. 3.

Average Daily Entry/Exits to Destin Harbor:

Fishing CharterTour CharterLivery PontoonPersonal PontoonPersonal VesselSailboatJet-SkiNon-motor CraftTotal Average
Holiday Weekend612344701918338388192,204
Regular Weekend743405871245319404222,091
Weekday9728246612425211294141,540
Preliminary Study numbers released Oct. 3 from USACE

Based on the average statistics, livery pontoons (rentals) surpass fishing vessels at a rate of 7 to 1. Personal vessels are the only category to top rental pontoons, but only for major holiday weekends.

Mayor and long-time mariner Gary Jarvis said a temporary moratorium in place preventing any additional livery pontoon vessels operating on local waterways needs to become permanent.

The moratorium set in 2019 prevented any new livery vessels from being added to the Destin harbor. In the ordinance, existing livery companies can move boats from one business to another but are not allowed to add boats.

“The intent was they saw a need that livery vessels were taking up slips that traditionally had been held by charter commercial fisherman and so they wanted to get a handle on it,” said Mayor Jarvis. “This report says what it says and it tells us nothing that we didn’t already know.”

The current ordinance is set to expire in December 2022. Council voted unanimously to bring a new ordinance forward extending the temporary moratorium another 6 months — well past when the harbor capacity study results are to be finalized.

  • This new ordinance will be up for public comment and discussion at the next two council meetings.

Destin city staff said on Oct. 3 that the final study will be complete by the end of December or early January for future council consideration.

“The complete report will include analysis, it will include the parking and environmental impacts. Right now what you have is the raw data on the boats and the vessels,” said land use attorney Kimberly Kopp.

USACE released more data tables with the Oct. 3 harbor capacity preliminary study results showing trip totals for the harbor on specified weekends.

USACE conducted the study in 2022 on the following weekends:

  • Memorial Weekend, May 26-30
  • July 4th Weekend, June 27- July 5
  • July 14-22
  • August 1-8
  • August 18-22
  • Labor Day Weekend, September 1-6

Destin city staff began this direction of harbor capacity and study for three reasons.

• Protecting the environmental health of the harbor and surrounding waterways.
• Promoting safety and enjoyment on our local waters.
• Promoting the economic viability of businesses operating on or along the Harbor.

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