Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell recently raised the ire of about 352,000 saltwater anglers in the state by announcing plans to suspend the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament, a state-run program funded primarily through the purchase of state fishing licenses, according to the Recreational Fishing Alliance.
Under a 2013-14 budget proposal McDonnell is considering, eliminating the 55-year-old statewide fishing tournament would mean that license revenues could be reallocated toward other fisheries management programs that are now funded through the state's general fund.
In a letter to the governor on behalf of its members, the RFA encouraged McDonnell to reconsider the proposal to kill the longstanding fishing tournament, which they said has contributed greatly to state tourism revenue through increased angler effort and participation.
“RFA and its members know full well that these are tough economic times, which require difficult fiscal decisions on how to best spend taxpayer dollars. However, suspending a money-making state program like the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament will ultimately lead to lost tourism receipts, decreasing tax revenues, and more private sector unemployment,” RFA executive director Jim Donofrio wrote while calling recreational fishing "a jobs creator" for Virginia.
The RFA said Virginia state Sen. Ralph Northam announced plans to introduce an amendment to McDonnell's budget when the General Assembly convenes this month that would restore enough funds to keep the awards program active.
“The Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament is a huge part of why recreational angling contributes so much to Virginia's economy,” he said in a statement. “The well-run citation, Expert and Master Angler, and annual species awards programs greatly enhance the draw of fishing in Virginia for natives and visitors alike. That means tourism revenue and jobs, two things that we should be looking to create, not destroy."