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World’s Largest Sportfishing Trade Show Highlights Industry’s Strength, Gulf Concerns

More than 550 industry representatives heard about the state of the sportfishing industry during the 2016 ICAST show. Image courtesy of the American Sportfishing AssociationMore than 550 industry representatives heard about the state of the sportfishing industry during the 2016 ICAST show. Image courtesy of the American Sportfishing Association

ICAST has the reputation for being the world’s largest sportfishing industry trade show and this year’s recently concluded event was no exception. In fact, with 15,000 people in attendance, 2016 has proved to be the largest trade show produced by the recreational fishing industry’s trade association.

From exhibitors to buyers to outdoor media, representatives from the domestic and international sportfishing and boating community converged on the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) in Orlando, Fla., July 12-15, for the 59th International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades, better known as ICAST.  Produced by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), ICAST represents the cornerstone of the sportfishing industry, driving sportfishing companies’ product sales year round and is the ultimate showcase for the latest innovations in gear and accessories.

ICAST, along with the International Fly Tackle Dealer Show and the new Marine Accessories Pavilion, encompassed 650,000 gross square feet in the West Building of the OCCC. ICAST hosted 552 exhibitors in 1850 booths with an overall combined exhibitor count of more than 700 exhibitors.

State of the Industry 

During this sold-out event, more than 550 industry representatives heard about how important it is to attract new people to our sport, and keep them in our sport. More than 126 million people have tried fishing, but only 46 million are active participants. The Recreational Fishing & Boating Foundation (RBFF) outlined an exciting and ambitious effort called “60 in 60” to engage everyone in the industry to get 60 million anglers actively engaged in the sport in 60 months.

That sentiment was echoed by keynote speaker, Ken Schmidt, former Harley-Davidson executive and lifestyle branding expert, who asked the audience to remember that they aren’t just selling “gear and ball bearings,” but selling an entire lifestyle and to remember that as a key element in their marketing and sales.

State of Florida and the Everglades

ASA Board of Directors Chairman Dave Bulthuis, Costa’s vice president of Sales, and ASA President and CEO Mike Nussman both thanked Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez Cantera and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commissioners for attending the show. Scott visited the show floor on Thursday, July 14, where he presented a proclamation saying July was Keep Florida Fishing month.

Just the day before Vanishing Paradise, National Wildlife Federation and 150 fishing and hunting-focused businesses and organizations sent a letter to Congress asking for bold action to address the ongoing crisis in the Everglades and on Florida’s coasts.

“Right now in South Florida, many beaches are covered in green slime and important seagrass beds are dying out. We have projects already drawn up that could have helped avoid this tragedy,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.

“But delays in funding and implementation mean we have failed to prevent this utterly preventable disaster. This letter makes it clear that sportsmen and women across the country want Congress to take action right now to address the fundamental problem,” O’Mara added. “These next steps include authorizing the Central Everglades Planning Project and providing strong levels of funding for the restoration of this incomparable ecological jewel.”

South Florida is often called the “Fishing Capital of the World,” generating more than $7.6 billion in annual revenue and supporting more than 100,000 jobs. The South Florida coast is known for its abundant sea trout, bonefish, snook, redfish and numerous other species. Marinas, hotels, grocery stores, tackle shops, restaurants, boat dealerships, and other businesses throughout the state rely upon anglers who flock to the Everglades’ lakes, wetlands and estuaries.

Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation added, “We could have stopped this toxic algae from fouling South Florida’s beaches and bays and smothering its seagrass beds. The solution has been at hand for many years: We need to expeditiously fund and implement critical elements of Everglades restoration such as the Central Everglades Planning Project, Modified Water Deliveries, Tamiami Trail bridging, and to add significant water treatment and flow-through capacity south of Lake Okeechobee by purchasing critical lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area. This purchase will allow for a significant reduction in the catastrophic discharges to our east and west coast estuaries and will allow for critical flows of treated water south into the Everglades and Florida Bay. We could have prevented this year’s crisis, but we didn’t. Anglers and hunters across the country are asking us not make the same mistake again.”

TRCP Media Summit: Fishermen, government focus on fisheries management

Recreational fishing and conservation group leaders revealed the preliminary findings from a series of collaborative workshops on alternative approaches to federal fisheries management.

The coalition worked closely with NOAA Fisheries, state game and fish managers, biologists, and researchers to identify ways to revise the current approach. Right now, federal fisheries managers set catch limits for both commercial and recreational sectors in a way that undervalues recreational fishermen and their $70 billion contribution to America’s economy. Innovative new solutions could give anglers more predictable seasons, boost conservation, and improve local economies in coastal communities and beyond.

“Although recreational anglers only catch two percent of the total fish harvested in U.S. waters, we create almost as many jobs as the commercial fishing industry”—455,000 jobs, in fact, said Mike Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association, the trade group that produces the ICAST conference and events. This year’s is their biggest show yet, with 13,000 attendees walking a 650,000-square-foot showroom packed with close to 600 exhibitors—a perfect backdrop for a discussion of new ideas.

A workshop, facilitated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in Tampa this May, was geared towards identifying where existing federal fisheries management approaches fail to adequately accommodate the unique nature of recreational fisheries and specific ways to address these issues. The group discussed alternatives that are rooted in existing management practices currently used for fish and waterfowl at the state level, such as:

  •  Managing for a harvest rate, rather than a quota that must be tracked in real time.
  •  Spatial management, or allowing fishing out to certain depths or distances from shore,    while making deeper waters off-limits to recreational harvest so brood stock can replenish.
  •  Looking at temporary and long-term allocation shifts between the recreational and commercial sectors, which might include shifting some species from recreational to commercial allocation and others from commercial to recreational.
  •  Developing new programs to gather better recreational harvest data or take advantage of existing voluntary harvest data.
  •  Reducing release mortality with new technology or better education on existing tools.

These initial conclusions were presented to congressional staff and representatives of the environmental community at a second workshop this June in Washington D.C. The group also discussed the potential legislative and regulatory changes needed to achieve these possible alternatives. Some solutions possibly require changes to the existing federal fisheries law, but others could be addressed through collaboration with NOAA Fisheries.

About the Author
Lew Carpenter

Lew Carpenter is a Regional Representative for the National Wildlife Federation. He works with NWF's affiliates and other independent organizations in Arizona, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. The groups include thousands of conservation-minded hunters and anglers. He also works with the outdoor writer's community to educate hunters and anglers on the rapid loss of Louisiana wetlands.

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