ICAST, the world’s largest sport fishing trade show, convened in Orlando, Florida, this month and The Everglades Foundation team was on the scene to meet with anglers, outdoor recreation leaders and other allies who recognize that restoring America’s Everglades is at the center of healthy fishing and big business for Florida. In between featuring new products and business transactions, key themes kept emerging throughout the four-day event.
Fishing Voices Matter
Florida Senate President Joe Negron kicked off the conference’s “State of the Industry” breakfast by sharing the successful passage of legislation known as Senate Bill 10 to more than 600 attendees. The bill, which sets forth a path to expedite water storage south of Lake Okeechobee, will restore clean freshwater to the Everglades and Florida Bay, while reducing harmful discharges to estuaries along the east and west coasts. These discharges cause algal blooms, create public health risks and devastate local fisheries. Citing years of delay, President Negron applauded the hundreds of fishing guides, business owners and anglers who traveled to Tallahassee, Florida, demanding action recalling that their efforts marked the turning point toward victory.
Advocating clean water is essential to Industry’s bottom line
Scott Deal, president and founder of Maverick Boats, was a featured speaker at the Saltwater Media Summit. Deal tied an 80 percent reduction in flats boats business to the resource degradation in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers, and especially Florida Bay. The dumping of polluted water to the north and not enough in the south has resulted in a “loss of abundant opportunity,” where anglers no longer see the numbers of Bonefish in Florida Bay. However Deal isn’t just talk – this past March, Deal was a key leader and industry champion alongside the Orvis Company advocating for Senate Bill 10 in Tallahassee to protect the recreational industry’s $10.3 billion impact in Florida.
We’re just getting started
Newly-minted Secretary of Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection Noah Valenstein addressed attendees of the summit, organized by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, underscoring that, “the natural resources are the foundation of our economy in Florida and the Everglades is the heart of that.” We couldn’t agree more. Florida has more than 3 million anglers who support more than 128,000 jobs. Secretary Valenstein highlighted progress we have made but reminded us that it’s a team effort to address the water resources. “We have a lot of challenges before us….but we get more done working together.”