Today I’m beginning five days of manning the Discover Boating and “Hands On Skills Training” activity at the Progressive Miami International Boat Show and I’m reminded of the importance to our industry of the growing Hispanic market, not just here in South Florida, but across America.
I recall what America Sportfishing Association president Mike Nussman told attendees at last summer’s International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades: “The fishing and boating industries must find new and better ways to retain anglers to offset the sport’s decreasing number of participants. Many people just don’t have the generational knowledge — the legacy of recreational fishing in their culture or their families.”
“In fact,” he continued, “an entire generation of millennials seems as if they’ve opted out of nature. Can we invite them back? You bet we can. Do we need to get younger and get more creative in our approach to recruiting and retaining anglers? Absolutely.”
And so the announcement by the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation of 12 grants from the George H. W. Bush Vamos a Pescar Educational Fund takes on added meaning. It is the second round of grant donations to organizations bringing boating, fishing and conservation experiences to Hispanic families.
The grants totaled $35,000 to each of the 12 boating and fishing programs in six different states. Moreover, the six state agencies will fully match each grant, effectively bringing the total amount of funding to $840,000 for this round.
The Hispanic audience is currently 57 million strong, making up 18 percent of the population. More importantly, the Hispanic audience accounted for 48 percent of the U.S. population growth between 2010 and 2015, according to RBFF, and is projected to reach 65 million individuals by 2020. The grantee’s programs are aimed at making boating and fishing an important part of this population's identity going forward.
"As the Hispanic audience continues to gain significance and influence, it’s important to the boating and fishing industries that programs like the George H.W. Bush Vamos a Pescar Education Fund directly engage this audience," RBFF president Frank Peterson said.
The funds enable recipients to establish programs that will introduce boating and fishing to youth and families and provide hands-on experiences to develop their skills. Program attendees of grant programs will also be taught water safety and safe boating behaviors as well as aquatic stewardship activities.
Bass Pro Shops Founder Johnny Morris donated $125,000 to RBFF in 2014 to start the education fund in honor of President Bush's 90th birthday. Soon after the George H.W. Bush Vamos A Pescar fund was launched, The Walt Disney Company, Cabela's Outdoor Fund and RBFF came on board with major financial support.
The grant recipients with matches from their state agencies are:
Hillsborough River State Park Preservation Society (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)
Iowa Latino Community Center (Iowa Department of Natural Resources)
Fishing's Future - Salina Chapter (Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism)
Fishing's Future - Central Texas Chapter; Fishing's Future - Clear Lake/Galveston Chapter; Fishing's Future - Houston Chapter; Fishing's Future - South Padre Island Chapter; and Our Lady of Guadalupe (Texas Parks & Wildlife Department)