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Sagging economy now affects fishing programs

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Talk about a sad sign during these troubled times in our economy. Even the giant American fishing tackle industry can’t find the necessary dollars to support special sportfishing programs that ultimately result in the growth of the sizable army of recreational anglers in the U.S. that is the envy of  the entire globe’s fishing fanatics.

Unless significant funding is found, the Future Fisherman Foundation, an arm of the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), will suspend operations effective March 2009.

The foundation has worked for the past 20 years to recruit nearly one million conservation minded anglers through special programs and partnerships such as Hooked on Fishing — Not on Drugs, Physh Ed, and after school programs with the country’s Boys & Girls Clubs. The foundation united the sportfishing industry with a nationwide network of state outdoor educators, national conservation groups and youth organizations, offering a variety of fishing and boating programs, equipment and services to community groups and schools across the country.

So now the foundation’s board of directors is seeking alternative funding and donations to avoid suspending its activities.

The entire problem of planning a suspension of operations began after the foundation’s board met Nov. 18 because a grant that funded a good part of its programs was no longer available for the 2009 fiscal year.

“The Future Fisherman Foundation’s board of directors and staff are committed to exploring all alternate funding options,” said foundation executive director Anne Danielski. “Over the next three months, we are aggressively seeking support from endemic and non-endemic funding sources, grants, and partnerships with new organizations within our industry that share our mission to engage youth in outdoor and angling activities.”

Mike Nussman, ASA president and CEO, said, “With the financial challenges facing our economy, the board determined that ASA could no longer continue its financial support for the foundation.”

That’s what bothers me. Even though I don’t know the exact amount of money that is needed to support a national effort to bring new sport anglers into the fold, how can the very group that is the industry’s trade group say it can’t financially support sport fishing programs?

Have things become so bad that the huge tackle and boat companies that are a part of the ASA can’t come up with enough bucks to keep up recruiting and extolling the virtues of sport fishing? Aren’t the newcomers to fishing the eventual purchasers of fishing tackle worth millions, even billions of dollars?

Danielski now is asking supporters: “Please help us sustain our programs so that the foundation can continue to play a pivotal role in facilitating opportunities for children, families and communities to experience the joys of fishing while fostering environmental stewardship.”

I’d urge the very companies that sell us rods, reels, fishing lines and lures, tackle boxes, boats and other equipment needed for our sport to dig deep and come up with funds to sustain any work done to bring new anglers into the fold.

Don’t you agree that this is a critically important part of these companies’ future success?

Meanwhile, learn more about the money problems at the Future Fisherman Foundation by going  to www.futurefisherman.org.

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