Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared July “Keep Florida Fishing” month during his address on opening day of the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades. DeSantis was one of several speakers who addressed participants at ICAST’s annual industry breakfast.
The governor, who took an environmental activist stance during last year’s election, spoke about the importance of sportfishing to Florida’s economy. He briefly outlined several clean-water initiatives that his administration is spearheading, including Everglades restoration and the appointment of a scientific committee to study ways to alleviate red tide and blue algae blooms in Florida’s waters. DeSantis received $682 million for his clean-water programs from the Florida legislature earlier this year.
“People understand that, despite political persuasions, a clean environment is critical to this state’s economy and tourism base,” DeSantis said to the annual gathering of the sportfishing industry.
Stephanie Vatalaro, senior vice president of marketing and communications for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, told the crowd that fishing participation is on the rise, with 49.4 million participants last year. She said the numbers include four “key constituents of today and tomorrow,” including 17.7 million females, 11.7 million young people between 6 and 17, 4.4 million Hispanics and 3 million “newcomers.” Vatalaro spoke about the importance of breaking down stereotypes and played a new “Off the Hook” video that shows different demographics fishing in Take Me Fishing’s national campaign.
Glenn Hughes, president of the American Sportfishing Association, agreed that the sport is healthy. “Fishing is on the rise and that is good news,” Hughes said. “But we have a lot of work to do to reach 60 million anglers.” Hughes was referring to RBFF’s “60 in 60” initiative which targets 60 million Americans to go fishing in the next 60 months. “We see many opportunities with women and children getting into fishing,” he added.
In her keynote address, author Sally Hogshead spoke about what it takes to compete in today’s business environment. “In a competitive environment, the most fascinating option always wins,” she said.
ICAST organizers said that pre-registration and booth sales were up over last year. The NMMA said it had 30 member companies in its Marine Accessories Pavilion near the entrance to the show. The trade association will be holding an “Advocacy and Ales” networking event today at 4 p.m in the pavilion.
ICAST runs from July 9-12 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.