It’s high time we started thinking hard about the way we manage our fisheries. The way things have been run in the past just aren’t working.?? We finally need to realize the incredible economic impact sportfishing has on this country…
As Kevin Costner kinda put it in Field of Dreams:: “If we build it, they will come.” In this case, the “it” part is healthy recreational fisheries and the “they” are dollar bills.?? Sportfishing is a gigantic business and can pump lots of money into local economies.
Take a look at some of the figures compiled by the American Sportfishing Association and you’ll see what I mean.
According to the ASA, more that $100 billion (1996 figures) is spent on fishing annually in the U.S., and an estimated 50 million people participate in recreational angling each year — more than golf and tennis combined. Kinda makes you wonder why the government doesn’t pay more attention to all you fisher folk out there, huh? Especially when you consider that, in ’96, we sport fishers generated a cool $214 million in federal income tax money.
So how is it that many of our fisheries are allowed to be harvested to the brink of extinction by a relatively few commercial interests when there are so many sport anglers in the U.S. who, as a group, spend huge sums of cash on their sport??? You’d think that keeping all those rod-toting consumers happy by ensuring they have fish to catch would be a government priority, but it’s not. Take a look in the papers — almost every day it seems like some variety fish is being added to the Endangered Species List and another river or piece of ocean is closed to fishing. If we run out of good fishing, anglers will lose interest in the sport and start spending their money elsewhere — and the impact will be devastating.
For example, while guiding salmon charters in Alaska earlier this summer, commercial fishermen were allowed to take somewhere between 25,000 and 35,000 king salmon from the river we were fishing. That’s well over one-third of the entire run! By comparison, sport anglers are allowed one king salmon per day and only four per year there. Thanks largely to a flooded market of farm-raised salmon, the commercial guys up there were getting a depressing 29 to 35 cents per pound.
Sport-caught salmon, however, was worth 100 times that much!??Do the math: a guy spends $900 in airline tickets to go to Alaska. To be sure he gets to the lodge’s float plane base on time, he flies in a day early and spends the night at the local hotel for $150, eats a $25 dinner, buys $50 worth of souvenirs and takes a $10 taxi ride.??The next morning, he spends $15 on breakfast and takes another $10 taxi. Then, he drops $2500 on four days of fishing and tips the crew another $300. Just say our angler takes home his limit of four salmon — all 30 pounders — and when he gets home he calculates that he’s spent $33 a pound for his fish! His 30-pound salmon are worth $990 apiece, while a commercial fish of the same size is worth $8.70 at 29 cents a pound.??To generate $990 in income, a gill or set netter would have to catch 113 salmon.
And that’s the crux of my point: sport fishing is much easier on the resource and has the potential to generate much more for the local economy. ??For some reason however, commercial fishing has a very strong lobby and regulations and management practices have long been drafted in their favor. Unfortunately, sport anglers – though huge in number — are much too fragmented to have a powerful voice in the legislature. But it’s time we turn the tide.
Hey folks, we have the power — let’s band together and use it to make some positive changes. If we work to conserve and improve our fishing opportunities, the benefits (economic and otherwise) will be obvious and substantial.
What you can do is join one of the many fishery conservation organizations that fight for the fish. Also, call or write your lawmakers and tell them how important healthy fish runs are to you and the overall economy.