As recreational fisherman or fisherwoman, you should take a moment to pat yourself on the back. Why? Because you’re a part of the single largest contributor towards aquatic resource conservation in the U.S.
Through fishing license purchases and the excises taxes on fishing equipment and motorboat fuel, recreational fishermen contribute about $1 billion annually to fisheries management and conservation – an amount no other user group comes close to matching.
We as anglers don’t just call ourselves conservationists; we put our money where our mouths are.
If you didn’t know about the investments you’ve made toward fisheries conservation, don’t feel alone (but still feel free to pat yourself on the back). Surveys have shown that 6 percent or less of anglers know about their excise tax contributions, which go toward the highly successful Sport Fish Restoration program for projects like habitat restoration and data collection programs. In addition, the simple pastime of recreational fishing is a massive economic driver that supports more than 800,000 U.S. jobs.
If as an angler you weren’t aware of these facts, you can bet that even fewer non-anglers know just how important recreational fishing is to the nation’s economy and the health of our aquatic resources.
In many ways, the general lack of understanding of the economic, social and conservation values of recreational fishing has been to the detriment of our community in policy decisions. This is particularly true when it comes to saltwater fisheries.
Throughout much of the 20th century, many U.S. fish stocks were significantly depleted due largely to commercial overfishing. As a result, policymakers and fishery managers have devoted the vast majority of their attention toward managing commercial fishing sustainably. Recreational fishing has long been an afterthought in terms of research, data collection and management focus.
Another major challenge for anglers, largely prompted by concerns of overfishing, has been a massive movement within the environmental community to “protect the oceans.” When these groups talk about limiting harvest or setting aside areas where no one can fish, they generally don’t differentiate between recreational and commercial fishing despite the numerous differences between the two sectors, such as motivation and resource impacts. Recreational fishing is responsible for just 2 percent of all fish harvest, compared to 98 percent by commercial fishing.
These existing challenges for saltwater anglers will only become exacerbated as our coastal population continues to grow, along with an increasing demand of our oceans for a variety of commercial and recreational uses. This is why it’s critical that anglers become united and engaged on issues that impact our ability to enjoy the nation’s fisheries resources.
If you’d like to learn about and get involved in pressing issues that affect you as an angler, I encourage you to explore ASA’s angler advocacy website – www.KeepAmericaFishing.org – and sign up today. Getting involved doesn’t require much time or effort, but if you want to ensure your kids and grandkids can continue to enjoy the sport, it’s absolutely critical that you start fighting for your right to fish now, before it’s too late!