More than 250 industry leaders met in the nation’s capital this week to tackle thorny issues such as dwindling water access, taxes and environmental issues that affect boating.
The American Boating Congress, organized by the National Marine Manufacturers Association, kicked off Monday at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel. The event featured a variety of speakers, such as EPA administrator Steve Johnson and other federal leaders. Attendees also had an opportunity to meet with their Congressional leaders.
Keynote speaker Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) on Monday talked about the importance of the industry to his home state, which he says is synonymous with boating and the America’s Cup.
The Ocean State is one of the leaders in establishing no-discharge zones and it boosted the boating industry when it nixed the state sales tax on boats. But, like the rest of the nation, dwindling access to the waterways poses a problem for the boating industry there.
“We could sell more boats,” said Whitehouse. “The question is: Where am I going to put it?”
Thom Dammrich, president of the NMMA, agrees that diminishing water access is a problem. That is why the group has been working with Dr. Ed Mahoney of Michigan State University to develop a system that will arm the industry with data.
The Grow Boating board of directors recently voted to fund Mahoney’s work, and will be creating a center for spatial studies of the recreational marine industry at the university.
Another topic at the two-day event was the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Samuel Rauch, deputy assistant director for regulatory programs at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fishery division, discussed new methods the government will be using to thwart overfishing.
According to Rauch, 65 percent of boaters are also anglers.
“If there are no fish, you take away the significant reason to go boating,” he said.
The plan includes annual catch limits, market-based approach to management and improving the collection of data.