Fisheries Management & Legislative Report
by Tom Fote
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association January 2006 Newsletter)
I am pleased that I was asked to serve on Governor elect Corzine’s transition team for the environment. I look forward to representing the views of recreational anglers and environmentalists on this team. I also hope to share the concerns of JCAA and the New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs. It is a very positive sign that Governor elect Corzine is inviting representatives of all the user groups to help develop proposals as part of the transition.
THE ARROGANCE OF FISHERIES MANAGERS
I have not been attending as many meetings this past month due to serious back problems. Bruce Smith, Tom Siciliano, Ed Cherry and other JCAA members have been attending meetings to represent JCAA. We all need to step up to the plate and get involved. Twenty-five years ago when I began attending meetings, I thought the stocks would be rebuilt and the problems resolved. I was naïve. Even though the stocks have been rebuilt, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission have found more ways to unfairly treat the anglers on the East coast. The more I interact with people from other regions of the country, the more I learn that NMFS is not doing any better anywhere else. The system is not working and has turned into a disaster for recreational anglers.
The latest example is summer flounder. In the last three JCAA Newspapers, articles have included information about why the quota should remain the same. The JCAA comment to NMFS is included below. Despite the opposition voiced by many groups and individuals, NMFS and ASMFC went to the 23.9 million pound quota. Though I have always been reluctant to do so, I must finally voice the following criticism: the staff and directors at NMFS and ASMFC and even state directors do not have incomes that are directly affected by the decisions they make. They have no direct monetary stake in the decisions and it is always easier, it seems, to make decisions that impact others more directly than you. The level of arrogance displayed by some of the state directors and NMFS employees is unbearable. They basically treat recreational anglers more like children than like colleagues. New Jersey’s delegation is a notable exception to this level of arrogance and both our council and commission members behave themselves in respectful and responsible ways. It was brought to my attention that one of the administrators commented if they (meaning recreational and commercial anglers) had bitten the bullet years ago, we wouldn’t be having these problems. If this administrator was not a ‘Johnny come lately” he might realize how insulting this statement is. For the past few years New Jersey has been more restrictive and this is the payoff we get. In 2004 as a commissioner I voted on the quota for summer flounder for 2005/2006 and instead of using 50% probability we actually used 75% probability, making the most conservative decision possible. And this is our reward!
JCAA will continue to discuss many issues with other groups. It is time for our Governor and the NJ Delegation in Washington, DC to demand that NMFS does the social and economic impact studies required by law before any drastic changes are made. NMFS is clearly in violation of the law and it should be up to our legislators and our governor to take action rather than waiting for recreational and commercial fishermen to take legal action.
Below is the JCAA position. I have also included two letters from Paul Hartel and Bobby Matthews. They clearly represent the thoughts of many recreational anglers and the businesses that depend on recreational fishing.
Paul Haertel Letter To NMFS On Summer Flounder 12/1/05
Limits harm small business
Letter to Editor
Hunters & Anglers
The Forefront of the Environment/Conservation Movement
By Tom Fote
I received an email from a member of the New Jersey Environmental Federation asking why I was not on the list to attend a meeting to discuss plans for New Jersey’s Coastal Zone Management, especially fisheries management issues. In response I explained why I thought JCAA was not invited and sent my reply to all the attendees. The response I received from the meeting’s organizer was interesting. He stated that the meeting was for environmental groups. Since I sit on the board of the NJ Environmental Federation and the Marine Fish Conservation Network, he assured me my interests would be represented. He failed to acknowledge the other four boards I sit on, Jersey Coast Anglers Association, American Sportfishing Association, NJ State Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs and the NJ Outdoor Congress. Jersey Coast Anglers Association, American Sportfishing Association, NJ State Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs and the NJ Outdoor Congress are also environmental/conservationists organizations. Historically, JCAA, NJSFSC and ASA have been fighting for environmental and conservation issues long before some of the groups in this coalition were in existence.
There are three questions we need to consider. First, who really started the environmental movement in the United States? Second, what is an environmental organization? And third, is there an exclusionary trend in the current environmental movement that seeks to eliminate hunting and fishing?
Audubon and the Sierra Club were founded by sportsmen and sportswomen. So were many other environmental groups. The national park system grew out of the love of the outdoors of Teddy Roosevelt, an avid hunter and angler. The hunters and anglers were the first conservationists and environmentalists. They pushed for a national and state park system and promoted the purchasing of private lands for conservation and public use. Many of the public lands and wildlife refuges were purchased using the money raised from hunting and fishing licenses. These initial purchases encouraged New Jersey state government, counties and towns to expand their programs to purchase land for conservation and public use.
When the federal government and the states could not generate the money to manage these purchases and the resident wildlife, it was the hunters and anglers who stepped up to the plate. We went to congress and asked them to impose a federal excise tax on all fishing and hunting equipment and use the funds for natural resource management. These Wallop Breaux Funds and Pitman Robertson Funds along with state license fees on hunters and anglers provide almost all of the money required to manage these resources. In some states, like California, these sources provide the only funding. At one point, there was a proposal to tax other outdoor equipment (binoculars, canoes, etc) at the federal level to provide more funding to conserve natural resources. This proposal was defeated. Can it be that other resource users did not want to pay their “fair share”? It would be appropriate for the “new” environmental organizations to give the “old” groups (hunters and anglers) credit for our history and our willingness to put up the money to fund natural resources protection.
I define an environmental organization by the battles it chooses to fight, not by the paperwork generated or the grants received. JCAA, NJFSC, ASA and the New Jersey Outdoor Congress are clearly environmental organizations because of the battles we choose to fight.
JCAA has been one of the organizations on the front lines for:
New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs has worked for:
The American Sportfishing Association has used its clout as an association of manufacturers to support:
The New Jersey Outdoor Congress was recently formed by hunters and anglers to reach out to all users of natural resources and work together to develop a stable source of funding the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, Division of Parks and other programs. This coalition includes commercial fishermen, recreational anglers, hunters, bird watchers, hikers, and other interested parties.
This brings us to question three, is there an exclusionary trend in the current environmental movement that seeks to eliminate hunting and fishing? What has become evident to me is that some environmental organizations that were originally supportive or at least neutral on hunting and fishing are being co-opted by people with a specific agenda. This agenda is less about environmental protection and more about eliminating hunting and fishing. At many meetings there are people who don’t eat meat or fish. For many that decision is a personal choice which they have no intention of imposing on others. However, there are a vocal few who have an agenda that includes eliminating hunting and fishing. There are also people who eat beef, pork, chicken and fish but who are opposed to recreational hunting and fishing. People are certainly entitled to their opinions and to express those publicly. However, I have two concerns. First, they shouldn’t allow their personal opinions to become the opinions of the environmental groups they represent. Second, they need to acknowledge that hunters and anglers are environmentalists/ environmental/conservationists. Just because we disagree about how to best use a renewable resource, we are not the enemy. As an example, the New Jersey Sierra Club frequently states they are not opposed to hunting. However, every time there is a hunting issue the New Jersey Sierra Club is opposed to any hunting. It does begin to make us suspicious when the public statements by their executive director, Jeff Tittle, don’t match their stated support for hunters. Sometimes people forget that one of the driving forces in the environmental movement is to have food of all kinds that is safe to eat. Many laws have been passed to make fish and wildlife free from mercury and PCBs so they are safe to eat. Many lawsuits that we and other environmentalists/ environmental/conservationists have supported have centered on the damage industries do to the environment creating an unsafe source of fish and game. Part of the damages usually awarded included the loss of recreational angling and the money required to remediate the situation.
It is my belief that on most issues we are in agreement. We need to be working together. For one environmental group to exclude another environmental group because its members believe in harvesting a renewable resource is counterproductive. It results in inaction rather than action. It breeds distrust and keeps us from presenting a united front on issues of crucial importance to all of us. Future generations need for us to work together. Without the hunters and anglers as members of the environmental coalition we would not have:
Paper presented by Bob Feldsott at ASA 2005 Summit
Good Morning, Its goods to see familiar faces whom I have known for many years. For others whom I’m just meeting for the first time, it is a pleasure to have this opportunity to meet and work with you. I would also like to think Ric Ice for the invitation; I have gained a new respect for the work you are trying to accomplish. Now the disclaimer, I have not spoken to a group of this size in 15 years. The last time was at my Wedding so I am out of practice and a little nervous so please bear with me.
I was asked here to speak about the opportunities and challenges facing segments of the sport fishing industry. I will preface that my comments will be directed at the fishing industry and not the sport fishing industry. I believe that we must realize first and foremost that the Fishing industry evolved not out of sport but out of subsistence that later turned to recreation. There are still many subsistence and recreational fisherman and if we ignore this segment of the market then we have limited our opportunities. Before I discuss the opportunities and challenges I would like to take a moment to give you a little background.
Folsom is the oldest company in the Fishing industry and might possibly be the oldest sporting goods company in the United States. The H & D Folsom Arms Company was founded in 1860 by Mr. Folsom and by the way that’s not my Dad Lou although many here might think he’s been around long enough to have founded the company. At that time the wholesale distributor played an important part in the growth of the sporting goods industry. Folsom had carried a very diverse set of products not just fishing and hunting but all sporting goods including baseball, outdoor apparel, even fur trapping equipment. Wholesalers were indispensable because it was impossible for manufacturers to reach out to all retailers. Remember it was very unusual for a retailer to have more than one store and our transportation system was primitive by today’s standards. Wholesalers provided one stop shopping for retailers by carrying hundreds of manufacturers and thousands of SKU’s. Salesmen were sent to remote parts of the country like Pennsylvania or Illinois. The Distributor salesman went were no man had gone before. This channel of distribution remained somewhat unchanged for almost 100 years.
In 1954 Lou Feldsott then president of Universal Fishing Tackle acquired the Folsom Corp from Mr. Folsom, whose only son was about to enter The Yale Divinity School. The country was growing quickly and retailing was starting to change. Multi unit retailers were populating the landscape of this country from the likes of Woolworth’s, S. Klein’s, E.J. Korvetts, and S.S. Kresgee (later to be know as K-mart). Lou at that time had decided that the future and growth for the Distributor was in these chain stores. Distributors could easily sell many stores while working with a centralized buying office. Rapid expansion soon followed. The local retail shops came under pressure to compete with more powerful centralized buying offices. But the local shop owner still had his knowledge and personalized service to offer the customer. In addition almost all retailers were paying comparable prices as most were buying from Distributors.
I joined the Family business in 1981 after graduation from the Wharton Business School. I had been working a stint in mergers and acquisitions when my father had called on me. I thought that Lou was pretty sharp, as many of you know all to well. So I joined Folsom and learned the business from the bottom up. My first job was to open 6 months of defective returns. Next, I was assigned to the loading dock. I had gone from the proverbial white Tower to the trenches. The responsibility of running a business, making tough decisions that either profit or loose were far more difficult than I had ever imagined.
Distributors flourished, having the support of most tackle manufacturers; virtually all factories had distributor programs. Due to a lack of technology the department and discount stores found it convenient to purchase from a distributor who could provide one point of service and manage their inventories for them. Independent and small multi unit retailers also flourished, as they easily match the Discounters prices and maintain their profit margins. Factories such as Penn, Berkley, Garcia, Johnson, Daiwa, Olympic and a small upstart Shimano all relied on distributors to put the product on the shelves of retailers throughout America, and it is with great pride and enthusiasm that Folsom took on that job
Consolidation, Technology and competition soon were part of the landscape.
The 80’s through today have seen a consolidation in the number of retail chains caused by the competitive environment of multiple retailers sharing the same geographic territory. With pressure on both management and their sales force to grow their business and profits, factories soon started to sell many of the retailers direct. Factories felt they could control the shelf space for their products. Shakespeare, Normark and Berkley found that it was advantageous and more profitable to go direct. Others factories soon followed. Due to aggressive retail direct programs that large national chains and regional sports specialty chains received, there was an erosion in profits for the smaller regional chains and the small mom and pop retailers who were still buying from distributors. In fact there is very little spread between the Big Box direct programs and the wholesale programs. This is why it has been difficult for distributors to keep their customers profitable. The wholesale fishing tackle distributor had been directly impacted causing the loss of all but a few of us. Those who remain have morphed into a hybrid, supplying national and regional brands as well as their own proprietary products that allow them to survive. The traditional fishing tackle wholesaler as we know has vanished. Now we are all suppliers to the same customers. The clear line that once differentiated a manufacturer and distributor are now blurred. There is no going back to where we were 20 years ago.
Now to the challenges and opportunities.
As I had said earlier there are many challenges that lay in front of us. There are issues with profitability, the net loss of retail floor space and the loss of participants. All these issues are weighing heavily upon us. The Good news is that the industry has done a good job of protecting and improving the fisheries, which are an important part of making our industry healthy again.
Let’s take a look at some losses to the fishing tackle customer base. At one time it included the likes of Macys, Dayton Hudson, J.C. Penny, Woolco, Gemco, Ames, Roses Stores, Venture Stores, Caldor, West-Gibson, Service Merchandise, Best Stores, Kroger, Brendles, HJ Wilson, Herman’s, most recently Galyan’s and hundreds if not thousands of independent dealers who were the backbone of our industry. In fact Abercrombie and Fitch, a single unit store in Manhattan was considered to be the benchmark of sporting goods retail. Their store in Manhattan actually had a shooting range to try out the guns they sold. Today my 9 and 12-year-old daughters look at me cross-eyed when I tell them that Abercrombie carried fishing and hunting gear. They only know it as the cool place to shop for their clothes. In many cases the stores mentioned no longer exist, or they have eliminated fishing as a category that they carry. Why? Profitability. There are just too many other options of profitable merchandise to sell.
The retailers who have survived in our industry such as, Wal-mart, Bass Pro, Cabelas, Dicks, Academy, Gart Sports, K-mart, Boaters World and the regional and local outlets have the same concerns and they need to be addressed. Profit! We are an industry that is fighting for survival. In order to survive we must stem the tide of loosing floor space. To do so we must put money in the retailer’s pocket. When was the last time you were able to go to one of your customers, and were honestly able to tell them that you have an opportunity that will put money in their pockets? It’s difficult at best to get a retailer excited about a category when the profit and inventory turns are in many cases less than their suppliers. Remember that we are competing for floor space with categories that offer better margins and turns than we can. What would you do in your customer’s position? Folsom was keenly aware of this issue when Lou supported both mine and Ed’s decision to start Bimini Bay, a clothing manufacturer. Sales were originally to our existing retail customer base, which we have been expanded upon. Our customers have enjoyed a minimum of 40% gross profit on our products and because of this Bimini has had an average annual growth rate that exceeds 25% over the last 13 years.
Tackle Suppliers must develop a formula to make the retailers profitable or management will take our space and give it to Team Sports, Nike, Adidas, our friends from NASCAR or any other category that offers a better profit opportunity. Dealers will be forced to look at all options as well, if they are lucky enough to own their properties they may just rent it out, or if they lease the space, close shop as hundreds already have because they cant pay their bills. A profitable customer base will equate to a healthy tackle industry.
It is a sad commentary on our industry when my friends who are considered to be successful have told their children not to work in their businesses. In fact many of you, I am sure have told the very same thing to your own children. We need to change our industry so that we would all be proud to have our children follow in our footsteps!
The fishing industry is loosing participants of all ages and there are numerous causes for this.
We are loosing the future fisherman because many young children are simply not taught to fish. We need to give more children a positive fishing experience which to excuse the pun, get them hooked on fishing. The industry needs to connect with school systems, camps, National and local organizations. We need to sponsor fishing programs, clubs and teams. An example would be to go to the inner city school districts and sponsor fishing trips for their children; they can have fun and put food on the table (Catch and Cook not catch and release). Lets remember the days not to long ago when a day fishing meant bringing home fish for mom to cook for dinner. Lets also take a cue from the NRA and all the hunting groups, killing is a good thing. We can still manage the fisheries if we set responsible catch levels. In some parts of the United States regulations have becoming too restrictive on both the size and quantity of fish that can be taken.
To create tomorrow’s customers and reinvigorate our current customer base, we must make fishing visible to the youth through the use of celebrities and role models, we must invite the subsistence and recreational fisherman back as well because they will teach their children to fish as they have done for decades. We must go to the Federal, state and local governments to relax some of the restrictions on sport and subsistence fisherman so the economics of a day fishing are justified.
We must make affordable product, which is necessary to allow easy access to everyone who wants to fish. Even the subsistence or recreational fisherman and their offspring are likely to purchase the more innovative and expensive products as their financial status improves.
A new and serious challenge is the cost of Fuel, petrochemicals and the energy component of our economy. They are a major component of both the cost of our goods and the cost of a day fishing. These cost increases will directly affect the fisherman’s disposable income. While the cost of freshwater fishing has jump substantially, for those who saltwater fish it has skyrocketed. The Angler must decide how he is going to spend his money, as it will now effect his lifestyle. Do they lower their home energy use, will they postpone that new rod or reel purchase so they fuel their boat. The cost to fill the tank just went up $50 ot $100. The issues surrounding increased gas prices are here to stay and it will have a profound effect on our industry.
Separate form the above but not to be lost is the cost of producing and delivering our products to our customers is going up as well. I don’t have to tell you that not one of our customers wants to here anything about price increases.
We must seek to address the tax issues surrounding our industry. While large corporations and many industries are getting tax relief and government assistance we are fighting with a tax code that is confusing, applied unevenly and sometimes unfairly. We must have the ability to grab the executive and legislative branch’s ear. Like them or not the NRA does an excellent job of this.
I am astonished that there are just a handful of retailers and sales reps participating in these meeting. They have much at stake and their livelihoods depend on it. We need everyone's participation to bring the fishing industry back to health.
It would seem that we have many difficult challenges ahead, but it became evident yesterday that we have a core group of members that are willing to dedicate themselves to the tasks that lay ahead. Opportunities will be dependant on how we choose to deal with the challenges. It is only when we accept the challenges that are before us, and deal with them in a united effort, clear in purpose, that we will create new opportunities. We must increase participation in fishing, make it profitable for our customers, and create a new vitality within the industry so the members and participants will work towards a common goal. We need to take advantage of every opportunity if we are to improve the health of our ailing industry.