- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 1, 2002

In an astonishing statement that follows hard on the heels of one of our columns (The Washington Times, Aug.21) dealing with the economic importance of recreational fishing in the southeastern United States, the Virginia state chapter of the national Coastal Conservation Association says that a huge jump in saltwater angling activity led Virginia's economic growth during the 1990s. Something that's not widely known.
The CCA/VA is part of a national group of sport anglers which espouses preserving marine resources and does not shy away from taking on commercial fish netters and crabbers anywhere, including the Old Dominion. The CCA/VA says that a report prepared by the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences (VIMS) showed saltwater recreational fishing to have an economic impact of more than $477million to the state a few years ago.
By tracking the popularity of the striped bass (rockfish) it was learned that this species accounted for expenditures of $92million in the 1980s and grew to $135million by 1999, according to the VIMS.
A recent VIMS newsletter also says that by 2001 the recreational saltwater fishing economic impact had more than doubled, to over $1billion.
According to the CCA/VA, when you break down the 1994 economic impact figures for Hampton Roads alone (it includes Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Suffolk, and York), the numbers were staggering nearly $284million. That's only for the Hampton Roads sector. If those dollar amounts were doubled, as the state's marine researchers say happened, then current saltwater recreational fishing results in expenditures and growth income of more than $570million currently in Hampton Roads only one area of the lower Chesapeake Bay.
That comes out to the equivalent of about 12,000 full-time jobs.
The CCA/VA asks, "What other business that large has doubled in the last seven years?"
The federal government's National Marine Fisheries Service apparently agrees. According to its marine angler expenditure study in 1998, which addressed the northeast region of the United States, the aggregate level of fishing activity has risen an estimated 57 percent since 1994. It showed that over 4.1million saltwater fishing trips from all fishing "modes" (shore, private or rental and party charter boats) were conducted in Virginia during 2001. Over the same time period, the number of licensed recreational saltwater fishermen increased 21 percent.
What bothers the Coastal Conservation Association sport anglers quite a lot is the fact that recreational fishing and related business activities rarely become the subject of economic talks, statistics and business conferences in the everyday world despite the huge effect it can have on communities and bank accounts everywhere. Sadly, judging by the reactions from federal government bean counters down to the lowest officials in a state natural resources office, you'd think commercial fisheries were all that counted. In fact, two Chesapeake Bay states Maryland and Virginia pursue a policy that seems to say the states owe the commercials a living.
All this despite the fact that the two user groups, the sport anglers and commercial fish netters, are quite far apart and the recreational fishermen generate most of the money.
This fellow isn't happy, either
David H. Teagle, of Gloucester, Va., sent a letter to the editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch recently that questioned the wisdom and perhaps the greed of state law makers, accusing them of running an old-time shell game.
He wrote, in part, "When we are taxed for a product, purchase, or something we own, especially when the original idea for the tax was to help the state run or maintain a particular agency, why in the world can't the money stay in the budget for that agency's use?
"My gripe is in reference to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries being raided for funds paid by the boating public in registration fees that will end up God-knows-where in state spending, while our boaters are unable to use [some state] launch ramps. Another good question is: What happens to the millions [of dollars collected] from saltwater fishing licenses?
"Maybe our state legislators [who must have served an apprenticeship with Arthur Andersen] could provide the taxpayers with a guideline on movement of our money from its intended source of collections to anywhere they want to spend it. It makes me very angry when my money from taxes is used so indiscriminately by our elected officials.
"Our beloved Commonwealth used to be known for its "pay as you go" policy. That now has been changed to 'spend as you see fit' without regard to the source of these funds."


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide