Each time an angler purchases a fishing license, purchases fishing tackle, or fuels up their boat they are assisting the improvement of their avocation by contributing to the Sport Fish Restoration Program. The nationwide Sport Fish Restoration Program is managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) through excise tax and duty revenue collected on fishing equipment sales, fishing equipment imports, and the sales of motorboats and small engine fuels.
Revenue collected by the USFWS under the program is distributed to state fish & wildlife agencies through a formula based 60% on the number of fishing licenses each state sells and 40% on each state’s land and water area. In addition to funding freshwater and saltwater fishing resources, states can use a portion of the funds received through the Sport Fish Restoration Program to support boating opportunities when matched in part by state funds including the sale of recreational fishing licenses.
Program revenue provided by anglers funds research regarding fisheries statistics, gamefish abundance, sport fish genetics, and marine geography. Fish populations, habitat, distribution, abundance, behavior, ecology, and life history data is used to manage and sustain healthy marine ecosystems and fish populations, while boating and angling guides are created through mapping data obtained by the Marine Resource Geographic Information System. Genetic research focuses the study of natural fish populations and the monitoring of hatchery-raised fish. By monitoring fish genetics, management agencies garner the information required to manage a species as a single population or manage natural and hatchery raised fish independently. The genetic data is also used to evaluate and manage the effectiveness of stock enhancements and used to protect natural populations from potential adverse effects introduced by cultured fish.
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Some states use Sport Fish Restoration Program funds to establish and monitor artificial reef projects, often done in conjunction with non-profit organizations and costal communities. Materials used to construct the reef, reef stability, and marine populations are observed to increase the success of reef projects in the future.
R3 efforts including fishing clinics and outreach programs to inspire and inform anglers are funded by Sport Fish Restoration dollars. Like much of the North American Conservation Model, successful management relies on the philosophy that those who benefit from a resource pay to foster and maintain the resource. The ongoing recruitment, retention and reactivation of anglers supplies the revenue used to sustain healthy habitat and fish populations, for anglers to enjoy, inspiring them to purchase licenses, fishing gear and fuel to have a great day on the water.
Boaters and anglers benefit from programs and research funded through the Sport Fish Restoration Program. Look for the Sport Fish Restoration logo when purchasing fishing equipment and know the excise taxes included in the price of the product purchased are funding active marine conservation efforts. Educational material generated by the program display the logo, as do boat ramps built or improved with Sport Fish Restoration funds. Remember to take a friend fishing; a healthy fishing tradition leads to healthy marine ecosystems.
Jim Hasley is a host and contributor with Under Pressure Outdoors and serves as an active volunteer in the Florida Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. He’s been plying the woods and waters of Florida and the Southeast for decades; he loves family, friends and food. For questions or comments, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org