RBFF program sent 60,000 boats back to the water in 2019

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The Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation brought a record number of boats back to the water in 2019 through its registration reactivation program, returning millions of dollars in revenue to 19 states.

“This year we spent about $250,000 to do this program, and this year that expense returned $2.2 million for state agencies,” RBFF president Frank Peterson told Trade Only Today. “So basically for every dollar we invest, we’re getting a $10 return. That’s not chump change. It gets more boats on the water, builds access at the state level, and supports boating safety programs out there.”

The program began in 2012; RBFF has an intermediary company gather data about lapsed registrations from the state. RBFF then checks those against Info-Link data to make sure the person still owns the boat.

“Info-Link has a system, say you have a boat and sell it, and the state still has you as the owner, Info-Link can tell that boat was sold or registered in another state,” said Peterson.

Direct mailers are sent out to people explaining that the boat-registration dollars are returned back to the state and contribute to the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund. If the owner has had a fishing license, they also gear the messaging to anglers.

Since they’ve begun, they’ve sent out over 4 million pieces of mail and have returned almost $14 million dollars to states, according to the association.

“We’re just making sure they still own the boat and we get something in their hands that stimulates them to re-register it,” said Peterson. “If you have a boat sitting in the yard and you put it back in the water, chances are it will need a little maintenance, a little upgrading.”

RBFF only works with between 19 and 25 states because of certain privacy laws and rules around states that have a Department of Motor Vehicles, said Peterson. But Illinois, which has a DMV, is going to run their own imitation of the program.

For just 19 states, RBFF mailed out 580,000 pieces of mail. “You can extrapolate from that how many unregistered boats there are,” said Peterson.

“We pay 100 percent of the cost of this and state’s get 100 percent of the revenue,” said Peterson.