OCTOBER 9, 2019

Federal Aid to Sportfish Restoration Boosts Anglers and Fisheries

How often do you see people or businesses wanting to be taxed and happy about it? You may not realize how much it has benefited you, but the Federal Aid in Sportfish Restoration (SFR) program has proven for more than half a century to be one of the best “user-pays, user-benefits” initiatives anywhere.

In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act. Between 1941 and 1950, sport-fishing businesses paid a federal excise tax that was deposited in the general treasury of the United States but did not directly benefit manufacturers or anglers. In 1950, sportsmen and businesses teamed with conservation-minded policy makers to redirect these existing federal excise taxes to the Restoration Program.

The concept was to restore sportfish populations and improve public access, so more people can enjoy fishing and so fishing sales would increase. Sport Fish Restoration (SFR) came about as a result of anglers wanting to see more money directed toward restoring the nation’s recreational fisheries, and ensuring better fishing opportunities for themselves and future generations.

Federal excise taxes collected on the sale of fishing reels and other fishing tackle, as well as a motor boat fuel tax, provide a remarkable annual return on investment for manufacturers of outdoor equipment. These excise taxes are paid up front by the outdoor recreation industry (such as fishing tackle and boating manufacturers). Although these costs are of course passed on to anglers, the share paid by the individual consumer is very small. However, the accumulated return to outdoors enthusiasts and the outdoors industry as a group are dramatic. For example, one study determined that for excise taxes paid on fishing equipment like rods, reels, and lures, the return on investment was an average of 2,100 percent over 51 years (1955-2006). In plain English, for every $1 paid by the sporting goods industry in federal excise taxes that support fishing programs, those industries made $21 back in fishing equipment sales.

In Florida, SFR provides millions of dollars to support boating access and freshwater fisheries conservation, which helps to support fisheries that provide $1.7 billion in economic benefit to the State — as well as providing 46 million days of outdoor recreation enjoyment annually! The FWC uses this money to improve fisheries habitat, stock fish, conduct research and manage fish populations. FWC also conducts aquatic education programs and provides valuable fishing and conservation information to anglers. The next time you go fishing, remember SFR — three important letters that make fishing better!