At the Helm: Industry outreach pays dividends

Watching what’s going on with the government – especially at the Federal level – can often be an agonizingly slow affair.

I’ve often heard comments about how our industry issues never get addressed, so why get involved in efforts like the American Boating Congress. It’s easy to understand. There’s little doubt it’s a frustrating progress. Most of us are used to working in or running small businesses and seeing change happen fairly quickly.

The answer is simple: This stuff matters and we can make a difference – we are making a difference.

You need look no further than the news out of Miami in February that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was, for the first time, creating a policy to incorporate the concerns of the nation’s 11 million recreational saltwater anglers into its planning process. For years, recreational fishing has taken second place to commercial fishing in crafting the nation’s saltwater fishing policies.

What was most striking about this announcement, though, was how it came about. It was a direct result of work from the industry. Just a year ago, also at the Miami International Boat Show, the Morris-Deal commission, co-chaired by Bass Pro Shops’ Johnny Morris and Maverick Boats’ Scott Deal, issued its report, “A Vision for Managing America’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries.” This industry plan directly inspired the new NOAA policy.

“Last year at this time was a turning point,” NOAA fisheries administrator Eileen Sobeck said in announcing the policy. The Morris-Deal report “was a pivotal report because it captured that this is a big community with a lot of interests and very specific requests of government.”

Reading between the lines as Sobeck spoke in Miami, it was pretty clear that until a year ago, there was a lack of understanding on many things about the recreational boating industry from its scope to its economic impact.

We see progress on other issues as well, with ethanol as one example. While it may seem like we’ve been fighting that battle for years as an industry with little benefit, there is incremental progress. Just a few years ago, there was little recognition or awareness of the problems of 15-percent ethanol blends (E15), but industry research, lobbying and education has moved the issue forward. There is continued momentum behind bills to address the Renewable Fuel Standard and ethanol issues.

And that’s why all of this outreach is so important.

We’ll have more on some of the key governmental and regulatory issues in the April issue and you can always find the latest updates at

So think about attending the American Boating Congress, sign up at or reach out on your own to your representatives.

No, the results aren’t instant, but you can make a difference, one that can be critical to your business.


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