Editor’s Log: Right To Fish - The Fisherman

Editor’s Log: Right To Fish

After nearly 27 years of service to saltwater anglers and the marine industry, the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) announced its merger with partner organizations including the American Sportfishing Association, Center for Sportfishing Policy and National Marine Manufacturers Association.  According to the official statement, the RFA board ultimately voted to unite the grassroots strength of its organization with other well-established organizations, while announcing “This plan to transfer material support will be carried out over the coming months and conclude with the dissolution of the RFA.”

As many readers know, I spent 6 years working as managing director of the RFA – a political “tour of duty” as I often say – between 2009 and 2015.  I’ve been an active and loyal RFA member for the past 20 years, so letting this major announcement run without a few words of my own would be a disservice to the great things the organization has done.

When RFA was first established here in New Jersey in 1996, it was done so as a 501(c)(4) grassroots political action organization (much like the NRA), the first of its kind in the angling world, and with a stated mission to safeguard the rights of our nation’s saltwater anglers, while protecting marine industry jobs and ensuring the long-term sustainability of U.S. saltwater fisheries.

“Today’s decision to redirect the resources and assets of the RFA toward supporting groups will ensure that we can capably carry out advocacy work on behalf of the recreational fishing community in a strong and united effort,” said Patrick Healey, president and CEO of the Viking Yacht Company.  Healey went on to explain how this strategic move should strengthen the collective efforts of like-minded organizations to ensure that the rights of America’s saltwater anglers and businesses are protected.

“We are confident that the original purpose and mission of the organization will continue to be carried out as we redirect the resources and support of the Viking Marine Group toward partner organizations,” said Robert Healey, Jr., chairman of the RFA Board of Directors and the Viking Yacht Company, adding “With the grassroots support of RFA members nationwide, I’m confident that our industry can maintain a strong collective voice for this nation’s saltwater anglers through these established leadership organizations.”

Through the years, the RFA has played a pivotal role in shaping policy at both state and federal levels. I was able to experience this active engagement first-hand during my 6-year tenure at RFA, which is probably why I’m so hyper-focused on the politics of fisheries management.  While not all of The Fisherman’s readers enjoy my political rants, we in the “regulated community” (which is how government officials refer to us anglers) need the support of elected officials from across both sides of the political aisle; it’s the very nature of the beast.

“RFA’s ability to mobilize its membership base and maintain close relationships with elected representatives on a bipartisan basis has helped stave off numerous attacks that stood to erode access to fisheries and our oceans,” said John DePersenaire, now Director of Government Affairs for Viking Yacht Company and past executive director of the RFA.  “By merging the RFA’s critical resources with other organizations and redirecting member engagement, we can ensure that the RFA’s intentions will carry on with renewed vigor into the future,” said DePersenaire, pointing out how RFA’s partnership with these other organizations shows the continued commitment to anglers, boaters and marine fisheries.

My thanks to the Healey family, as well as my friend and former executive director Jim Donofrio who founded the RFA with the late Bob Healey, Sr. back in the 1990s; you’ve all created a model of political support, one which I hope becomes even more powerful now as part of a broader based coalition of anglers and business leaders fighting together for our right to fish!

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