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May 14, 2013

The Economics of Recreational Fishing

If sport fishing were a single industry, it would be top tier in the Fortune 500.

The economic activity generated by sport fishing benefits more than just the manufacturers of tackle, marine electronics, boats and motors. It supports many rural communities along our coasts, rivers and lakes, with their multigenerational rural lifestyles. Fishing is part of their heritage. More than most, they understand the need to maintain healthy ecosystems and sustainable resources. Those two things have formed their history and will maintain their future.

Sport-fishing participants love to catch fish both for fun and for a healthy source of protein. They also understand the need to protect and enhance the environments that support fish. Anglers and hunters have been some of the most conservation-minded resource users throughout recorded history. They understand that “no fish” means “no fishing.”

Anglers contribute to the funding of our nation’s fisheries conservation and environmental improvement in a number of ways. This past year, 2012, marked the 75th anniversary of a conservation funding system that is envied throughout the world. In 2010, the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund generated $390 million from the excise tax on fishing tackle and from the transfer of boat fuel tax dollars back to the Trust Fund. This money is apportioned back to states by a formula based on fishing activity. License sales in 2010 also generated $657 million used by states to operate their fish and wildlife agencies. Beyond all of that, anglers donate more than $400 million annually to a variety of conservation and fishing organizations. That is an impressive tally, and one of the reasons the U.S. has maintained generally robust fish populations and quality habitat.

Fishermen and hunters understand that in order to have healthy resources, you have to have healthy ecosystems. When the latter goes away, you do not have the former, and they are willing to pay to enhance both. Without them, we would not be in the robust shape we are today. So the next time someone says, “Anglers just play with their food,” we can say: “OK, but we pay to play. What have you done lately to support our resources?”