Editor’s Log: Business Or Pleasure? - The Fisherman

Editor’s Log: Business Or Pleasure?

Recreationally speaking, you and I fish for fun.  But given that we’re part of what’s referred to as the “regulated community” whereby government regulates how, where and when we can have our fun, it’s also important to recognize the economic power we have as anglers.

According to NOAA Fisheries own data, recreational saltwater fishing contributes $63 billion in sales impacts and $36 billion in gross domestic product to the national economy every year.  Combining fresh and salt, statistics shared by the American Sportfishing Association reveal that over 943,000 anglers spent more than $835 million while fishing in New Jersey in 2021.

So, kudos to us for driving our national economy; if anyone gives you grief about fishing too much, just remind that person how much you’re helping spur economic growth in America while simultaneously working to lower everyone’s taxes, one drift at a time.  You’re welcome!

That said, it’s high time that some state and federal bureaucrats stepped away from their cubicles for a bit, perhaps have a little walk-about down by the waterfront one weekend for a better understanding of what it is that we in the private sector contribute financially through fishing.  Following my June 10th editorial (Editor’s Log: Mitigate This) a reader from Connecticut inquired with his home state fisheries office as to the status of compensation – or mitigation – resulting from the negative impacts of industrial offshore wind development.

As I referenced in that June 10th editorial in The Fisherman digital weekly, the government recognizes that large-scale offshore wind development will result in “financial losses” in the fishing community and they’ve launched a mitigation program for impacted fishing industry members to receive compensation.  However, it appears as if only “commercial fishing vessel owners/operators” are eligible.  Taking the economics of recreational fishing into consideration, the reader’s question to the state offices in Connecticut made a lot of sense; essentially he asked what about us?  The official government response spells trouble:

This regional fishery mitigation fund is intended to compensate commercial fishermen for loss of income due to offshore wind development. Recreational fishermen are not deriving income from fishing.”

Apparently, $36 billion in gross domestic product each year on a national basis doesn’t move the needle much for some gubment desk jockeys.  Yeah, perhaps individual anglers might not derive direct income from fishing, but statistically speaking we drive a heck of a lot of income through bait and tackle shops, outfitters and box stores, for-hire trips, and local tourism (not to mention the added sales and excise taxes, state registrations and licensing, money that theoretically lands on that bureaucrat’s desk at some point).

In fairness, the Connecticut state worker did also admit the following:

That is not to say that recreational fishermen are not impacted in other ways.”

As I’ve noted before, the government and the industrial offshore developers are aware of the “economic losses attributable to construction, operation, and decommissioning” impacting our fishing communities, both commercial and recreational.  Yes, saltwater anglers will also be negatively impacted by industrial offshore wind development, which in turn impacts retail sales, tackle manufacturing, boatbuilding and for-hire trips.  Regrettably, the common theme is and always has been that we anglers simply don’t matter as much as the commercial folks.

Recreational fishing may be fun, but our angling pleasure contributes significantly to the microeconomics of manufacturing and tourism.  It’s quite apparent that some people at the government level don’t see recreational fishing as a business worthy enough of attention in this high stakes battle on the open seas, and that sad fact will ultimately impact the individual rights of all anglers down the line.

And that, my friends, must change.

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