Every year, thousands of anglers flock to Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and other coastal towns to catch fish, such as grouper, amberjack, tuna, and snapper.
Recreational fishing is both a common pastime for millions of residents throughout the country and an economic powerhouse. In Gulf Coast states such as Mississippi, the recreational fishing industry generates a significant amount of revenue through fishing license fees, boat rentals, hotel stays, and other associated expenditures.
A significant portion of the revenue generated by recreational fishing comes in the form of fishing permits issued by Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. In Mississippi, these license fees generate more than $17 million annually, with an additional $11.4 million raised in excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment. Much of this revenue is generated from out-of-state anglers who pay more than in-state residents for recreational fishing permits and may stay in hotels overnight. In that way, fishing permits funnel out-of-state money into the local economies near popular fishing locations.
Revenue from fishing licenses also funds conservation programs carried out by state agencies. By purchasing licenses, anglers support water quality and coastal health projects that support healthy ecosystems essential to recreational fishing.
The importance of recreational fishing extends beyond the Gulf of Mexico. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, recreational saltwater fishing contributes nearly $60 billion annually in sales revenue to the U.S. economy and supports approximately 439,000 jobs. In 2014, more than 11 million recreational saltwater anglers spent $4.9 billion on fishing trips and $28 billion on durable fishing-related equipment. While many states supplement these revenue streams by collecting fees from fishing licenses to support conservation, not all states do.
In the future, it will be increasingly important that policymakers incorporate the perspectives of anglers into laws and policies, and harness anglers’ love of the sea and reliance on healthy marine ecosystems to support their activities. This approach will ensure that the recreational fishing sector continues to provide economic support for coastal communities while maintaining the sustainable management of aquatic ecosystems.
Published in March, 2017, by the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative.