“Hope burns always in the heart of a fisherman.” —Zane Grey
While the hearts of fishermen may not have changed much since 1919, when Grey wrote that, a lot about saltwater recreational fishing certainly has changed over the years. Today, saltwater anglers can go farther and faster in bigger boats with more advanced engines. Sophisticated electronics and navigation help put us on fish quicker and more reliably.
With these changes comes the need to modernize our federal fisheries management laws, especially considering that the hope of catching “the big one”—a timeless ambition—drives 11 million recreational anglers to get out on salt waters and contribute $70 billion in economic activity each year.
That’s why I was proud to participate in the Kenai River Classic Roundtable in Soldotna, Alaska, last week. Organized by Yamaha and the Kenai River Sportfishing Association, the roundtable convened the who’s who of conservation leaders in saltwater recreational fishing—including the American Sportfishing Association, Center for Coastal Conservation, Coastal Conservation Association, and the National Marine Manufacturers Association—to talk about the long-term future of our sport, our economy, and the marine fisheries resources that support them.
We talked about where things stand today, including the real conservation and management challenges that saltwater anglers face, and presented our positive unified vision for where we need to go as a community in order to address these challenges.
First and foremost, we need a new Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) reauthorization—one that reflects and respects the true economic and conservation values of saltwater recreational fishing—to modernize our fisheries laws. Over the years, MSA has been successful at doing what it was designed to do best: manage commercial fisheries, Americanize our commercial fleets, and end overfishing. Given the far greater economic impact now provided by recreational anglers, changes must be made in order to manage fisheries effectively and fairly. To ensure a bright future for our marine fisheries and natural resources, we must encourage a management system that provides access and opportunity to more recreational anglers.
American sportsmen are the original stewards and financiers of good conservation: As a group, we contribute $1.5 billion annually through excise taxes, fishing license sales, and direct donations. That is a tradition that we should all take pride in, and it’s also a tradition that will be critical to the future of sportfishing.
We want more anglers on the water for economic reasons, but we actually need more anglers on the water for conservation reasons.
Click here for full-length video of the Classic Roundtable.
To read more about our community’s vision for the future of saltwater recreational fishing, click here.