It’s no surprise that recreational fishing has an impact on the state’s economy. After all, with 400 miles of shoreline and a reputation for abundant blue fish and stripers, not to mention the more exotic Blue Fin Tuna and shark in late summer, it’s no wonder that anglers flock to the Ocean State.
But what does recreational fishing net Rhode Island; in money spent in bait and tackle shops; at the fuel pump to gas up cars and boats; stocking up on sandwiches and beer; restaurants for the post-fishing fish and chips; charter boats; and, for distance travelers, a hotel room?
The total, according to an economist who spoke at the first-ever Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers’ recreational fishing symposium last week, is a whopping $179 million annually.
That fact alone should make the state sit up and take notice. Recreational fishing is a fundamental part of what makes the state a tourist destination.
But that wasn’t the reason Warwick’s Rich Hittinger organized the symposium. Hittinger, an avid recreational angler and owner of a Warwick business, said he noted that the commercial fishing industry frequently conducts symposiums to address issues affecting their business, to connect with regulatory agencies and to share information. He questioned why recreational fishermen wouldn’t be doing the same thing and found that they would.
In the course of the daylong symposium, the anglers heard state and federal officials and learned what scientists see as the result of climate change. The conclusion is, what comes with warmer waters is some species going out of Rhode Island waters and others moving here. The good news for recreational fishermen is that there are fish here and that’s not expected to change.
Hittinger said the saltwater anglers aim to take recommendations and findings from the symposium to develop an “action plan.”
When they develop a plan, we would urge them to strengthen the link with state tourism. One factoid to come out of the symposium we found especially compelling relates to the economic impact of each pound of fish harvested:
Every pound of commercially caught fish translates into $14 of economic activity. That number jumps to $300 a pound for recreationally caught fish.
That should convince those seeking to promote the state that recreational anglers are a great catch for Rhode Island.