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Posted on Jun 11, 2009 in Top Shots
Time For a Little Good News!

And now for something entirely different: a little good news.

The recreational-fishing community has had its share of downbeat developments of late on many fronts, including fisheries-management challenges and restrictions, and slow sales of boats and motors. But if you think folks just aren't motivated to go fishing, think again.

While so many aspects of our lives seem to be heading a bit south of late, sales of fishing tackle and fishing licenses are holding steady overall and, in some cases, increasing, according to the American Sportfishing Association (www.asafishing.org).

"There are strong indications that angling remains one of the largest outdoor recreational activities in the nation as well as one of the most solid industries in the United States," says the ASA, citing 40 million anglers generating more than $45 billion in retails sales and creating employment for more than one million people.

For the first quarter of the year, state fishing-license sales were up 11 percent from last year, a trend that seemed to be continuing into the second quarter as well. In fact, says ASA president and CEO Mike Nussman, "These are the best numbers we've seen in several years," adding, "It's clear that people are going fishing and purchasing tackle."

Tom Mackin heartily agrees. He should, since his company - RapalaUSA (which includes Storm and Williamson brands among others) - enjoyed a double-digit increase in tackle sales over last year, through the first quarter.

The big daddy of domestic tackle conglomerates, Pure Fishing, is similarly upbeat based on strong sales. More families fishing, it says, account for much of that.

I hope this isn't lost on federal and state officials involved in managing our resources. For example, one fisherman's group has recently recommended managing grouper in the Gulf of Mexico strictly for recreational use. The billions and billions of dollars that recreational fishing generates should leave little doubt that the economic value of a single grouper, red snapper and so many other species in the recreational fishery has a value many times over what would be worth if targeted/harvested commercially.

And while we're on the topic of good news, as of June 1, a federal rule raises the daily catch limit of bluefin tuna for recreational fishermen from one to two fish. (Commercial fishermen are still allowed three.)

That is good news for anglers, but should not be taken to mean that Atlantic bluefin are not in serious trouble. They are (hey, the news can't be all good!). However, unlike some European and other nations that routinely exceed their catch quotas, the U.S. has not been achieving its allotted quota. That raises the possibility that ICCAT, the agency governing allocation of high-seas tuna stocks, could start giving away part of our quota to other nations meeting theirs.

While overall (especially in the eastern Atlantic), bluefin quotas remain too high (and perenially higher than ICCAT's own scientists recommend), it seems to me that if these fish are going to be caught anyway, they may as well be caught by us.

In any case, it appears despite -- or very possibly because of -- so much bad news, Americans in increasing numbers are going fishing. Whether you're after bluefin tuna or bluefish, go get 'em!