Maverick Boat Group CEO Scott Deal yesterday testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. The hearing, “Our Blue Economy: Successes and Opportunities,” focused on different perspectives on marine economic development and the need for federal investments in ocean technologies and fisheries.
Deal was one of three experts testifying before the committee. The other two witnesses were Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant and Michael Conathan, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s High Seas Initiative.
Speaking about boating’s $170 billion economic impact on the U.S., Deal outlined how the recreation supports 690,000 jobs and 35,000 marine businesses. “While most people think of the boating industry as a fun form of recreation, the term ‘recreation’ is a misnomer—boating means business,” said Deal. “Our industry is a uniquely American made product: 95 percent of boats sold in the U.S. are made in the U.S. From boatbuilders like myself all the way down to workers who produce raw materials we use to build those boats—boating creates jobs, lots of them.”
Deal told the Senate committee that his company’s “ability to expand sales, grow market share and manufacture more product,” is directly tied to the ability of saltwater anglers to get on the water. Eleven million Americans take part in recreational fishing in salt water. “These saltwater anglers, many of whom are Maverick customers, support 472,000 U.S. jobs across a variety of sectors and $68 billion in sales annually,” said Deal.
Three basic foundations will support the boating industry, according to Deal. The first is an “updated and robust infrastructure,” including boat ramps, fishing piers and marinas as well as navigational markings, mooring buoys and properly dredged channels.
Deal also said that a clean and healthy environment was “critical” for boating. “I’ve personally experienced the impacts of water quality and quantity issues as my coastal home faced algae blooms this past year,” said Deal. “The side effects pose serious harm to fish habitat, impede access, and raise human health concerns. When our waters are not clean and our fisheries are not healthy and abundant, the businesses and jobs supported by boaters and anglers are threatened.”
Finally, Deal said sound fisheries management policy that supports recreational angling was critical to his business. “In 2014, I spearheaded, along with Johnny Morris of Bass Pro, the Morris-Deal Report—the first- ever vision for managing America’s saltwater anglers,” said Deal. “This report made six recommendations for the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), including allocating marine fisheries to the greatest benefit for the nation; creating reasonable latitude in stock rebuilding timelines, and codifying a process for cooperative management.” The report was eventually used as the foundation of the Modern Fish Act.
“Yet there is still more work to be done,” Deal testified. “Improved forage fish conservation was a critical component of the Morris-Deal report and forage fish such as menhaden are under intense pressure, something that I hope Congress will address this session…Federal marine fisheries management is still not maximizing the needs of the blue economy.”
Deal said that a survey by NMMA and the American Sportfishing Association estimated boat manufacturing companies have invested $46.1 million in capital expenditures and hired 615 people because of extended fishing seasons. Retailers reported a 20 percent increase in tackle sales.
“While much progress has been made in recent years to improve Gulf management and access, unfortunately, the South Atlantic fishery lags behind,” said Deal. “We hope many of the data collection and state-based management solutions implemented in the Gulf can be replicated in the South Atlantic as well. Doing so would generate investments from boat manufacturing companies of another estimated $18.7 million and the hiring of 312 more people.”
Deal concluded his testimony by saying that recreational fishing is more than families fishing on weekends. “It provides for hundreds of thousands of American jobs,” he said. “Anglers and boaters are good stewards of the environment. We directly contribute to infrastructure and conservation efforts, totaling $600 million annually through the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund. We need clean water and sustainable fisheries to enjoy our sport.”
Recreational anglers take only two percent of the finfish in America’s oceans, but generate more than half the jobs in the entire fishing industry.