Beneath recreational fishing’s bucolic veneer of a solitary angler alone with his thoughts—and perhaps a striper or two—on a desolate beach, the reality is that sportfishing is big business. Still, the perception remains that the effect of this hobby on the environment is far below that of commercial fishing despite the overall quantity of fishermen on the water.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, nearly 12 million Americans went sportfishing annually from 2005 through 2009, making about 80 million saltwater sportfishing trips per year. That’s roughly equivalent to the entire population of the five coastal New England states getting out on the water seven-and-a-half times apiece.
The economic benefit of these activities is tremendous. Rec fishermen spent $18 billion on equipment and for-hire vessels in 2006 alone according to NOAA’s most recent figures. These contributions rippled through coastal economies, ultimately contributing $49 billion and creating nearly 400,000 jobs. Further, these figures don’t account for costs like hotel rooms, meals, travel costs, and other services of which anglers avail themselves in their quest to land the big one.
Yet many rec fishermen still believe there’s no way his or her single hook on a line can possibly do as much damage as the sweep of a yawning bottom trawl. Well, when we put 12 million hooks on 12 million lines the equation starts to come a bit more into balance.