Perspective: BY MARKO MLIKOTIN
Imagine if you produced a product that experienced a 55 percent decline in sales over 35 years. Now, imagine that projections showed that sales would decline an additional 47 percent over the next 10 to 15 years. Would you call for an emergency meeting of your sales team?
While this scenario may elicit fear from business owners everywhere, it’s a reality for California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), as these numbers reflect the actual sales history of resident annual fishing licenses. While DFW should find these sales figures alarming and take immediate action to reform its antiquated fishing license program, the Department continues to aggressively defend the failed status quo.
Consumers typically consider price and value when making financial choices. This is why it’s so puzzling that DFW offers one of the costliest fishing licenses in the country yet remarkably chooses to push a license that does not offer anglers maximum value by being valid for a full 12 months.
What’s more, defending a costly and antiquated system is not in the long-term financial interest of DFW and its programs. DFW is funded in large part by sportfishing license fees, and receives millions of dollars from the federal government from taxes generated from fishing tackle sales. As state fishing license sales continue to decline, DFW stands to lose millions of federal dollars within a few short years, putting fishery management, fish stocking and habitat conservation programs at further risk.
In fact, a “death spiral” in fishing license sales could occur as the state continues to lose more than 35,000 annual fishing licenses per year. The time has come when the sale of fishing licenses will not keep pace with the department’s financial needs, evident by the DFW’s cuts in its trout stocking programs due to budget constraints. Simply put, by defending the broken status quo, DFW is biting the very hand that feeds it – the California recreational angler.
Their failure to act is why the California Sportfishing League has sponsored the Sportfishing Stimulus Act of 2015 (SB 345), legislation introduced by Senator Tom Berryhill and Assembly Member Frank Bigelow and co-authored by a bipartisan group of 8 additional legislators. SB 345 aims to provide anglers greater value and savings, including the establishment of a 12-month license and a junior license ($15.12 for 16-17 yrs) so that kids don’t have to purchase an adult license that can cost anywhere from $47.01 to $120 year!
When it comes to political leadership, it is often said that “as California goes, so goes the nation.” However, when it comes to promoting recreational fishing, this has not been the case. DFW should embrace positive change, not fear it. Rather than justifying their opposition to reforms by citing states that have faced challenges transitioning to a 12-month license, they should emulate those who have been successful and build upon that success, all the while recognizing that California is unique.
This is what an unprecedented coalition of influential angler, business and tourism associations is calling on the California State Legislature and Governor Jerry Brown to do. It is imperative that state decision makers look beyond DWF’s opposition to recognize that recreational fishing contributes over $4.9 billion in economic activity each year, supporting communities and families dependent on it for jobs, tourism and local tax revenue. More fishing simply means more economic activity.
If the state’s goal is to grow recreational fishing’s contribution to the economy and increase Department funding, then it’s time to abandon a failed program that has only resulted in fewer licenses sold and fewer anglers. It’s time to abandon the indefensible position that the status quo is working. It’s time to embrace bold reforms that have worked in other states. It’s time for a 12-month fishing license that offers greater value and results in increased license sales. We hope you agree.
Marko Mlikotin, is the executive director of the California Sportfishing League. To join a growing coalition of SB 345 supporters, visit www.sportfishingconservation.org.
Business/Tourism Community Rallies in Defense of Recreational Fishing
SACRAMENTO — California State Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water passed Senate Bill 345, the California Sportfishing Stimulus Act of 2015, by a vote recently of 8-0.
“A bipartisan panel of California legislators recognized that reforming California’s fishing license program is necessary to increase fishing participation and grow the economy,” said Marko Mlikotin, executive director for the California Sportfishing League. “As consumers, it makes no sense for anglers to pay full price for annual fishing license that is not valid for a full 12 months. It’s time to reform a costly and antiquated program that is discouraging participation and harming the jobs dependent on the future of recreational fishing.”
An unprecedented number of prominent business and tourism associations appeared at the hearing in defense of a form of outdoor recreation that generates over $4.9 billion in economic activity each year, supporting communities dependent on fishing for tourism, jobs and tax revenue.
“California’s great outdoors and vast coastline, and thousands of lakes and streams attract anglers from all over the world, generating tax revenue and jobs for communities dependent on recreational anglers,” said Ken DeVore, Legislative Director, National Federation of Independent Business/CA. “Unless California’s extraordinary decline in fishing participation is addressed quickly, jobs and tourism dollars will be at risk.”
Senate Bill 345, sponsored the California Sportfishing League and introduced by Senator Tom Berryhill (R-Twain Harte) and Assembly Member Frank Bigelow (R-O’Neals), must be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee before the legislation goes to the full California Senate.
Members of the Committee who voted in support of SB 345 were: Chair Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), Vice Char Jeff Stone (R-Riverside County), Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel), Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis), Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) and Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica).
The California Sportfishing League (CSL) is a nonprofit coalition of fresh and saltwater anglers, and small business owners devoted to protecting access to recreational fishing.
To learn more visit www.sportfishingconservation.org or @CASportfishing