Just in the past five years, a groundswell of anti-fishing sentiment in the United States has begun to build, and it has leaders in the sportfishing industry worried. Mike Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association, told a group of media representatives at a breakfast meeting at the ICAST show in Orlando today that he always felt secure that public opinion and governmental support would protect recreational fishing. Not anymore.
Nussman pointed to Australia, where the federal government is considering placing a half-million square miles of prime waters offlimits to fishing. He also listed threats in the United States, including closures in saltwater fisheries and other attacks on the sport. To combat the threats, Nussman urged writers and editors to help publicize fund-raising and membership drives to build Keep America Fishing, the ASA’s advocacy arm.
Gordon Robertson, ASA vice president, noted that KAF has grown from 20,000 members in 2010 to 750,000 today, and the organization’s goal is to increase membership to 3 million by 2015.
“One thing I’ve learned about Washington,” Nussman said, “is that to make an impact you have to have a lot of people and a lot of money.”
In just its first three years, Roberton said, keepamericafishing.org has been able to score several victories, including defeating bans on lead fishing tackle at state and federal levels, helping pass the RESTORE act to benefit the Gulf Coast and protect sportfish in Oregon.
The group is hoping to enlist companies in the industry as well as media organizations in building a war chest and a formidable membership.
Nussman said he is thrilled about the KAF successes so far. “In my career with ASA, this is the most exciting thing we’ve done,” he said. Membership is free at keepamericafishing.org.