Why it matters: By far, the greatest number of saltwater anglers in the United States reside or travel to the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Coastlines each year to fish from their own boats or rely on the charter industry to take them fishing. Natural disasters, like hurricanes or an oil spill, can reduce or temporarily eliminate access to our fisheries and cause significant economic harm to coastal businesses that are dependent recreational fishing. This bill clarifies that when those disasters occur and a fishery disaster declaration determination is made by the Secretary of Commerce, the charter fishing industry, marinas, and recreational fishing tackle retailers are among those eligible to receive funding to help get their businesses back open and America’s saltwater anglers back on the water.
Sponsored by Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (WA) and Ranking Member and Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Roger Wicker (MS), the Fishery Resource Disasters Improvement Act (S. 2923) is a significant step in recognizing the economic and social values of marine recreational fishing. The recent barrage of strong hurricanes on the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts, as well as the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, significantly impacted recreational fishing businesses, whether through the loss or damage to charter fishing vessels or the complete closure of fisheries to both charter and private anglers.
According to a NOAA Fisheries report on The Economic Contribution of Marine Angler Expenditures on Fishing Trips, 2017, recreational angler trip expenditures totaled $10.5 billion, contributed to over 167,000 jobs, resulted in $24 billion in sales, and contributed to $14 billion in value added to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). While fisheries disaster relief efforts have historically focused on the commercial fishing industry, it is clear marine recreational fisheries are an important economic driver in the United States and providing relief to the recreational fishing industry during times of fisheries resource disasters is equally important.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation(CSF) extends our gratitude to Senators Cantwell and Wicker for advancing this important bill through the Senate, as well as Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Congressman Jared Huffman (CA) for recently introducing a House version of the bill (H.R 5453). CSF will continue to support efforts to include local recreational fishing businesses on the list of those eligible to receive disaster relief funding and to get saltwater anglers back on the water as quickly as possible following a fisheries disaster.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?