RFA takes bold action; MBIA makes the right move

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Actions taken this week by two associations – the Recreational Fishing Alliance and the Michigan Boating Industries Association - represent bold initiatives that merit support and duplication.Ripping out a page from environmental extremists’ playbooks, RFA has filed suit in U.S. District Court against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Marine Fisheries Service and Gary Locke, Secretary of Commerce. It is the most aggressive action taken by RFA since its inception in 1996 as a grassroots political action organization dedicated to safeguarding the rights of saltwater anglers and the related boating and fishing industries.

The suit contends the recent closure of the Atlantic recreational black sea bass fishery is a “misapplication and misuse of a fatally flawed angler survey which NMFS itself has acknowledged is not to be used for this type of decision." RFA says the closure is unprecedented for a fish whose stocks are considered rebuilt and not overfished, and asks for declaratory and injunctive relief with “expedited consideration.” The black bass closure is only one of many such actions being taken that arbitrarily limit recreational fishing along our coasts. A win in this case could have far reaching implications on future proposed closures.

For boat dealers, especially if you sell saltwater fishing models, it’s time to take action against “anti-fishing and extreme environmental groups that are working everyday to get us off the water,” as RFA’s James Donofrio preaches. For more details and to directly support this initiative, please go to: www.joinrfa.org.

Meanwhile, kudos to MBIA President Van Snider who has moved to substantially increase the legislative power of all boating interests in Michigan. In announcing the formation of the new Boater’s Association of Michigan, Snider will strategically add the voice of the state’s boat owners to the lobbying efforts of MBIA. He also unveiled a new website – www.boatmichigan.org – as the portal for BAM.

Historically, industry trade groups have avoided including boat owners in their lobbying organizations, believing industry priorities and consumer concerns would clash. But that’s not proven true if the Boating Associations of Ohio is any example. What’s been good for the industry has been good for the boaters, and vice versa, there.

BAO was formed by the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association in 1987. It includes Ohio’s three marine trade groups and all the state’s major boater organizations. Over the past 20-plus years, the industry and boat owners have jointly racked up a long list of positive legislative and regulatory accomplishments ranging from major tax reductions to millions of tax dollars allocated to build boating facilities.

“The industry lobbying alone accomplished some,” said Ken Alvey, president of LEMTA. “But when we teamed up with our boaters, real grass roots energy was unleashed and that’s why we’ve been so successful. Michigan is on the right track,” he added. 

Recognizing that boaters, generally, do not present an organized lobbying front, BAM’s formation will give Michigan’s boat owners a solid voice for state legislative and regulatory issues that impact their boating lifestyle. As incentive to pay a $25 a year membership fee, BAM members will receive discounts at participating marine businesses, boat shows and social events. It’s a model worth serious examiniation by other state MTAs.

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