ALEXANDRIA, VA — The Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF)’s 2023 State Marketing Workshop, “Fostering Lifelong Participation Together,” wrapped last week in Houston, Texas. Some 200 representatives from 47 state fish and wildlife agencies across the country, ranging from as far as Alaska, Rhode Island, and California, gathered in person to learn about the latest trends in marketing including TikTok, R3 planning and partnerships, while also gathering new data about retention in fishing, boating trends, and angler participation.
Over three days from February 27-March 1, a broad range of speakers delivered presentations on topics from diversity to recruitment and retention before breaking off into huddle sessions where leaders strategized how to apply the latest lessons towards local conservation and fishing and boating recruitment and retention.
Keynote speaker Risha Grant, an internationally renowned diversity, inclusion, and bias expert and author of soon-to-be-released book “Be Better Than Your BS,” headlined the event, kicking things off with an early morning, interactive dialogue. Grant captivated attendees by sharing personal stories to identify, own and confront our bias as we work to attract diverse markets to fishing and boating.
“This year’s Workshop reached a broader audience than in previous years. Besides the state agencies participants, we also had industry guest participants, and our keynote was hand-picked to share a strong DEI message,” said Joanne Martonik, Senior State Marketing Manager for RBFF. “It is gratifying to see the agencies’ engagement and willingness to share their best R3 practices and learn more from one another.”
Fishing and boating saw record participation growth during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. State agencies reported sales were at a 10-year peak—with particular growth among youth, female, Hispanic and non-traditional audiences in the sport. However, according to the 2022 Special Report on Fishing, the industry is losing participants at rates often higher than the number of anglers recruited.
In 2021, the sport gained 11.6 million anglers but lost 14 million anglers. Fishing participation from 2010 to 2021 rose from about forty-five million to 52.4 million. However, according to RBFF data, 25-33 percent of fishing license purchasers do not renew their licenses the following year. Additionally, 40-50 percent of boat owners do not continue to own a boat after five years.
Future growth in fishing and boating, experts say, rests among women and non-traditional segments like the BIPOC communities. Black, Hispanic, Asian, Indigenous, and anglers with disabilities represent more than $3 trillion in disposable income.
The implications of growing fishing and boating participation range beyond product sales and recreation opportunities. Thanks to the 1950 Dingell-Johnson Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act, a percentage of equipment sales from boating and fishing products and a portion of motorboat fuel goes towards state conservation efforts. In 2022, that dollar figure reached $400 million, eligible to state fish and wildlife agencies for sport fish management and conservation, raising and stocking fish, habitat protection and enhancement, education, and constructing and maintaining fishing and boating access.
Recordings from the presentations during the 2023 State Marketing Workshop will be posted on RBFF’s YouTube channel. Subscribe to be notified when presentations are up.