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Spending on Sportfishing Continues Positive Upward Trend


When it comes to outdoor recreation, fishing in America is second in popularity only to jogging. With more than 49 million annual participants, fishing has a remarkable and positive impact on the economy.


A recently released report from the American Sportfishing Association takes a deep dive into angling’s role in supporting the outdoor industry and the country’s economy as a whole. Sportfishing in America: An Economic Force for Conservation, compiled by Southwick Associates, draws on multiple sources such as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service surveys, and Census Bureau data, to summarize participation and spending details from 2016, the most current year available.


To help readers understand the immensity of angling’s impact, it points out that more Americans fish than play golf (23.8 million) and tennis (18.1 million) combined. Furthermore, the $49.8 billion that anglers spend on fishing gear and trips beat out the $45.4 billion spent on Valentine’s Day, Easter and Halloween combined. And, the fact that participation in freshwater angling is up 11% since 2011 is fantastic news.


Let’s take a closer look at what all this spending means. In future blogs on this topic, we’ll dig deeper into what specific purchases make up this total.


The ability to detail the economic impact of angling is helped in part by the fact that in 2018, for the first time, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the country’s official source for analyzing U.S. economic data, reported outdoor recreation as its own category. We now know that the outdoor recreation economy accounted for 2% of nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016 and that the category grew 3.8% that year, compared with only 2.8% growth of the overall U.S. economy.


For reporting purposes, angling participation in divided into three categories: freshwater, saltwater and Great Lakes. Their estimated GDP contributions:  


Freshwater:       $41.9 billion

Saltwater:         $18.3 billion

Great Lakes:     $3.1 billion


Spending activity on angling has some level of effect on 800,000 U.S. jobs. In addition to the previously mentioned $49.8 billion that fishing enthusiasts spend at the retail level, this activity also generates:


Salaries and Wages:                  $38,351,900,000

State and Local Tax Revenues: $6,534,200,000

Federal Tax Revenues:              $9,429,300,000


On the conservation front, fishing license sales contributed greatly to support of fish and wildlife agencies. Recreational anglers between the ages of 16 and 65 must often buy a fishing license each year. In 2016, that amounted to nearly $1.3 billion dollars, which doesn’t include spending on special permits or stamps. It’s further estimated that since 1951, anglers have added more than $38 billion to conservation efforts via membership dues and contributions.


Also, as the report points out, “Through the 1950 Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act (also known as the Dingell-Johnson Act), manufacturers pay a federal excise tax on all fishing tackle. In addition, a portion of motorboat fuel taxes also go to fisheries conservation and other programs such as new boat ramps. By law, these funds can only be spent on fisheries and habitat conservation and restoration and are distributed to states for those very purposes.”


Check back here often as future posts will outline some revealing findings on gear and other expenditures by U.S. anglers.


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