ACMA members identify legislative priorities at Dealer Week

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The Advisory Council of Marine Associations met in an all-day session during Dealer Week to establish a list of legislative and regulatory recommendations to send on to the board of the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas.

ACMA is composed of presidents and executive directors of national and state marine trade associations. Its chairman is Kathleen Burns, executive director of the Connecticut Marine Trades Association, and it meets annually to examine and prioritize national issues, while also reporting on state issues the various organizations may be undertaking.

While many issues remained the same as a year ago, there was a major shift in the ranking reflecting new or dramatically increased concerns among the leaders. Most notable was the shift from No. 4 to No. 1 for issues of water quality in the nation.

“There’s a clear consensus that water quality and public health issues that will negatively impact boating are now top-of-mind for association leaders,” Burns said. “An example is the nationwide proliferation of algae blooms, in which our customers can’t boat or swim and which present a public health threat when breathing in the surrounding air. Signs posted by health departments at lakes reading ‘Danger – No Swimming or Boating’ aren’t going to help us sell boats.”

Hans Wilson, president of the Southwest Florida Marine Industries Association, noted that his group has commissioned a study by the University of Florida to identify the economic damage of algae blooms to the boating industry in SFMIA’s region.

“There is no question boating’s being hurt, and we want real numbers to make the point that algae issues and their causes must be addressed now,” Wilson said. “Our economic health is dependent on the health of our waters.”

Others, including Melissa Danko, executive director of the Marine Trades Association of New Jersey, pointed to success in getting the administration of Gov. Phil Murphy to distribute more than $13 million to fund a new initiative to reduce and prevent harmful algae blooms. In Ohio, the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association reported that it’s awaiting details of a new program dubbed H2Ohio from Gov. Mike DeWine that calls for $176 million in spending to address algae and other water issues.

“Another water quality threat comes from invasive species,” said Nicki Polan, executive director of the Michigan Boating Industry Association. “We’ve been advocating for federal and state action to keep the voracious Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes and decimating our native fishery. So much of Michigan’s boating success is dependent on our excellent fishing. And because Asian carp are a threat to the entire Great Lakes, it is a problem of national importance.”

Meanwhile, American Boat and Yacht Council president John Adey noted that his organization is working on developing documents for builders that could reduce the risk of spreading invasive species.

Indeed, fishing also is part of ACMA’s water-quality priority, recognizing that the sport is the cornerstone of success for many manufacturers and retailers in our industry. The industry’s achievement of getting the Modern Fish Act passed by Congress now calls for continued monitoring of its implementation. Other water-quality issues identified included proper maintenance of low-tonnage harbors and channels, and addressing the environmental consequences of abandoned and derelict vessels.

Raising water quality issues to No. 1 knocked workforce development out of the top spot. That’s because the ACMA members acknowledged there are now many excellent initiatives underway across the industry to address the employment problem. For example, Randall Lyons, executive director of the Massachusetts Marine Trades Association, noted that his organization received a state grant for training programs for the second consecutive year, and the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association, under the leadership of CEO Wendy Mackie, is recognized as a leader in training programs, fiberglass recycling and other efforts.

Ethanol and all its well-documented problems for boating remained in the No. 3 spot. ACMA members shared the need to keep pressure on Congress to pass the act calling for better safety labeling of gas pumps to help boaters avoid misfuelling; to push for major revisions in the country’s Renewable Fuels Standard; and to vigorously oppose any planned increases in the amount of ethanol mandated to be in gas supplies.

Finally, ACMA members heard that, going forward, the industry must use the now-documented knowledge that recreational boating is confirmed as the largest economic sector of outdoor recreation in America. Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, urged ACMA members to leverage this information to “get more state governors to support having offices of outdoor recreation in their state’s economic development departments.”

The recommendations are expected to be sent to the MRAA board early in the new year. In all, 16 national and state marine trade associations were in attendance at the Tampa Convention Center.

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