Congratulations! You’ve made it to the turn of a new calendar year. That’s no small achievement, and if you’re reading this from the office of a tackle store, you deserve an extra pat on the back while we’re at it.
Business, we hope, is good. Still, as the industry shifts focus to 2019 with visions of a new season, a new landscape in professional bass fishing, and a new Spring with new sales, there are a handful of pressing issues from 2018 worth keeping on your mind. Like the calendar, many have evolved since the ball dropped in Times Square. But, like the calendar, none are going away anytime soon.
1. Unprotected Headwaters
Even as the fishing industry celebrates the monumental passing of the Modern Fish Act, another gargantuan slice of legislation looms. Since 2017, the President has set a goal of eliminating federal protections for headwaters under the 1972 Clean Water Act. Right now, the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed the removal of protections for more than half of the streams in the contiguous United States. That proposal is set to be opened for public comment soon.
In 2018, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt resigned, and was replaced by his deputy, Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist.
2. Trade Wars
Apple is grabbing headlines this week for projecting $5 billion in loses due to America’s ongoing trade dispute with China. If you’re reading this, there’s a better than 50 percent chance you’re doing so on an Apple product, which is part of the reason this week’s news is gripping the nation. However, the sportfishing industry is not immune to the ramifications of new tariffs on Chinese imports.
The trade war has already impacted production of cast nets, apparel, rain gear, and baskets. And manufacturers at the 2018 American Sportfishing Summit reported that they are already moving overseas production out of China, and into other markets like Korea and Vietnam.
3. Secretary Who?
The federal department overseeing public lands is leaderless following the December 2018 resignation of Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. Zinke, the former Navy SEAL, became embroiled in controversy surrounding mining and drilling in and around national parks and monuments, as well as other federal lands.
In the interim, the Department of the Interior is being led by former oil lobbyist David Bernhardt According to Business Insider, leading candidates to replace Zinke full-time include Bernhardt, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, and Idaho Governor “Butch” Otter.
4. New Year, New Pure Fishing
In November, private equity firm Sycamore Partners agreed to purchase Pure Fishing from Newell Brands for over $1 billion. Newell Brands recently announced that their divestiture of Pure Fishing is now complete; but mum is the word from Sycamore Partners regarding their plans for Pure Fishing in 2019.
The stakes are high, with titanic fishing brands like Abu Garcia, Berkley, Stren, Penn, and more in the balance.
5. The Everglades vs. Big Sugar
Few states are impacted more by the fishing industry than Florida. The state is a battleground for multiple conservation, management, and political issues. In the wake of catastrophic coastal algal blooms in 2018, Florida fishermen are yet again fighting for their fishing grounds. Organizations like Bull Sugar and Captains for Clean Water are fighting against the state’s sugar industry to protect wetlands and restore the viability of the Everglades ecosystem.
6. Modern Fish Action
The enactment of the Modern Fish Act is only the beginning of a long road towards new federal management policies in saltwater fishing grounds. Experts from the American Sportfishing Association say that data collection and policy making could take years, and that the ultimate result—more fish and more access to fish—may not be seen until the mid-2020s. However, 2019 marks the first year of a groundbreaking piece of legislation that will lay the foundation for the future of recreational fishing. Its implications range into the freshwater realm, and construction begins now.