Perspective: CA Sportfishing League

Perspective: Sign a petition for year-round licenses

Special to Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Mar 08, 2016

Fishing license sales facing a ‘death-spiral’ says the California Sportfishing League

Since 1980, California’s “annual” fishing license sales have decreased over 56 percent, while California’s population has increased over 60 percent. If you can envision an airplane in a nose dive, this is the trend facing California fishing license sales.

“It does not have to be this way, especially for a state that has one of the Nation’s longest coastlines and thousands of rivers, and over 4000 lakes. Sadly, it is, and no alarms are being sounded at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW),” said Marko Mlikotin, Executive Director, California Sportfishing League (www.sportfishingconservation.org)

He said, “This should concern every Californian, even those who do not fish. Recreational fishing contributes over $4.9 billion in annual economic activity to our State each year, supporting local tourism and jobs. In fact, you will witness this economic activity in action at the Fred Hall Shows in Long Beach and San Diego.”

Support a 12-month fishing license program by signing the Senate Bill 345 Petition, available at the Turner’s Outdoorsman and Berkley exhibit booths.

DFW, whose budget depends on the sale of fishing licenses to manage its fisheries and conservation programs, is certainly aware of the problem, but they don't seem to care. One year ago this March, the DFW wrote in Western Outdoor News that if California fishing license sales decline “as little as 3 percent,” the department would lose “approximately $2.7 to $4.5 million” in federal grants that help fund fishing programs. Well, sales declined nearly 2 percent since then, and given current trends, DFW will be out millions of dollars by year’s end.

As sales continue to nose dive, DFW continues to profess that their department is in sound financial order. To anglers, such declarations appear at odds with its actions. State fisheries are producing fewer and smaller trout, and DFW does not have enough money to conduct the environmental assessments that could restore fishing to California’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). As state revenue continues to decline, many anglers fear that fishing may never return to over 800 square miles of the Pacific Ocean.

Unless matters dramatically change, DFW’s fishing licensing program is certain to face a “death spiral.” This is because DFW’s business plan is based on the notion that they can raise more revenue from a dwindling population of anglers (and hunters) by raising the fees. In reality, DFW’s sales reports reveal that as the price of fishing licenses increased over the years, participation rates declined. Worse yet, California fishing licenses are the costliest in the country, as DFW continues to limit access, impose greater restrictions, and plant even fewer fish.

The California Sportfishing League (CSL) is urging DFW to consider alternatives to the status quo; charging more for less. For starters, anglers must be viewed as consumers, and not just taxpayers. Consumers respond to “value,” something the private sector practices everyday and in fact, many states do too.

This is why State Senate Bill 345 was sponsored by CSL and authored by Senator Tom Berryhill. The legislation calls for abandoning California’s archaic “calendar” based system for a license that is valid for a full-12-months from the date of purchase, so anglers get a full 365-day value for their investment.

Senate Bill 345 is just a first step and alone, will not stop a system that is spiraling out of control. The urgency to abandon failing systems is something recognized by reform-minded states all over the country. Many states have introduced new technology and marketing plans that not only increase sales and revenue, but aim to increase outdoor tourism and jobs.

To achieve such success, these states first started with the realization that there was a problem and the need for a solution, something DFW needs to do in a hurry. Engaging the sportfishing community would be a good place to start. California’s great outdoors and economy, and every vendor at the Fred Hall Show stands to benefit from this partnership, now and in the future.

Support a 12-month fishing license program by signing the Senate Bill 345 Petition, available at the Turner’s Outdoorsman and Berkley exhibit booths.

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