February 9, 2023
Columbia, S.C. — With the new legislative session underway at the Statehouse, here’s what the South Carolina Boating & Fishing Alliance is fighting for to ensure the protection and promotion of the state’s boating and fishing industry.
Lower Property Taxes
The cost of boat ownership in South Carolina is extremely misaligned. We boast some of the lowest registration and license fees in the country yet have some of the highest property taxes on the Atlantic coast. This issue creates two problems. First, we are unable to capitalize on the fees and taxes of every boat actually housed in the state since they are registered elsewhere. Secondly, counties and municipalities are still responsible for the emergency and county services that come with owning property. Overall, South Carolina is pricing itself out of millions of dollars from thousands of vessels that could be registered in the state that could help fund much-needed conservation projects and ensure funding for counties and municipalities. SCBFA has established a study committee to determine the best approach to reforming property taxes to make boat ownership more affordable in South Carolina.
Abolish Outboard Titles and Taxes
Currently, South Carolina is one of only six states that continue to have a property tax on outboard motors. We are working with legislators to bring the outdated, unnecessary tax model to an end to make boat ownership more affordable.
Common Sense Boater Safety
It is certainly no secret that boater safety is a big concern on our lakes across the state and marinas along the coast. We must ensure that the boater’s best interest is at heart and common sense is behind the necessary reform. Thankfully, we have devout boaters on both sides of the aisle in both chambers who are drafting common sense boater safety laws that will require boat owners to complete a safety certification program and have a copy of the certificate before getting on the water to ensure our waterways across the state are safer.
Our waterways along the coast are filled with abandoned vessels, which pose a threat to our fisheries and environments. We have worked closely with the state legislature to determine how to properly remove them and preserve the local habitat. In 2021, Gov. McMaster signed H.3865, enabling municipalities to require a permit for boats anchored for an extended period. The implementation of H.3865 requires funding for the removal of the vessels. Sen. Chip Campsen recently introduced S.484. The bill will create a Waterway Protection fund dedicated to funding the removal of vessels, hazards, and illuminating hazards along our waterways.
Historic Conservation Trust
We are working with the state legislature to establish a historic conservation trust fund that will fund outdoor infrastructure projects (hatcheries, habitat restoration, boating access, etc.).
As the boating and fishing industry continues to expand exponentially in South Carolina, businesses within the industry are in dire need of skilled workers, which is why we are working with the state legislature to secure funding for workforce development and schooling.
In addition to our work in Columbia, we are closely monitoring what is going on in Washington. Here are the three biggest issues we are currently following:
We successfully suspended NOAA’s consideration of area closures in the Atlantic South until data from the ongoing South Atlantic Great Red Snapper Count is integrated into management decisions. We believe in sustainable fisheries and the impact they have on our economy. While the two-day red snapper season is ridiculously short, a full closure would be a catastrophe for local economies. Making a decision with the lack of data would be a horrendous bureaucratic overreach. The Alliance continues to monitor the Red Snapper Issue.
South Atlantic Fisheries Council
For too long, the South Atlantic Fisheries Council has been filled with environmentalists and bureaucrats who do not have the industry’s best interest at heart. Therefore, we have worked closely to ensure the boating and fishing industry have a seat at the table. Alongside Gov. Henry McMaster, we successfully had industry leader Gary Borland of Pure Fishing named to the Council and hope to continue filling the seats with pro-boating and pro-fishing members.
The latest federal regulation we are fighting against is NOAA’s proposed speed restrictions which would broaden the current 10-knot (or 11.5 mph) speed restriction to include vessels 35 feet and larger (down from 65 feet), expand the go-slow zones to include virtually the entire Atlantic Coast, plus 90 miles from shore in certain areas, and extend the zone restrictions as long as seven months during the prime fishing seasons. These restrictions are an effort to preserve the North Atlantic Right Whale population and prevent alleged vessel strikes, though NOAA has failed to identify a single instance.
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