As I worked on this year's In-Fisherman Gear Guide, I noted the many references to the annual ICAST (International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades) Show, staged by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA). This association includes companies involved with manufacturing, promoting, and selling tackle and associated products, along with all major media outlets involved with fishing, as well as non-governmental conservation leaders and fishery management agencies at the state and federal levels.
The 2014 Show was most successful, with attendance of over 11,000 people, representing a 25-percent increase in buyers over 2013; 30-percent increase in retailers; and 31-percent increase in media involvement. Perhaps signs of resurgence in the U.S. economy spurred this increased participation.
Most of the items highlighted in this year's Gear Guide made their debut at this show. But beyond a product showcase, the ICAST Show is a gathering of old friends from the sportfishing community. Focus on the sport of fishing seems to generally bring out the best in folks involved in this business.
Since joining In-Fisherman in 1988. I've missed few of these annual ICAST shows. I also served on the ASA Conservation Committee from 2006 to 2014. One role of this committee is to vote on funding for conservation and access projects through the FishAmerica Foundation. Association members and the angling public may be less aware of this area of ASA's activity. Using funds provided by major tackle and marine manufacturers, the FishAmerica Foundation has dispersed more than $13 million to over 1,230 grassroots fishery restoration projects in freshwater and marine habitats throughout the U.S. and Canada. Projects are developed and sponsored by local conservation groups, fishing clubs, and natural-resource agencies.
Another arm of ASA is involved in government affairs. Since 2002, Gordon Robertson headed this division. In that capacity, he and his staff have advocated for fishery conservation and management, representing the recreational fishing industry with state and federal agencies and policy makers. Robertson retired from ASA this past August, after being inducted into the prestigious Fisheries Management Section Hall of Excellence of the American Fisheries Society at that group's annual meeting in Quebec. His career in resource management and policy spanned 45 years.
As we purchase fishing and marine products, anglers should feel part of these conservation activities. The excise taxes that are levied on manufacturers and passed along to consumers fund a major part of today's fishery management activities. Last year, apportionments to states for fishery management and habitat restoration surpassed $372 million. You all deserve thanks for your part in these efforts.