February 16, 2023
By: Matthew Goins
Columbia, S.C. — For the South Carolina Boating and Fishing Alliance, it has been a historic two years since its launch, with industry advancements, legislative achievements, and the voice of anglers and boaters amplifying.
On February 16, 2021, the message was loud and clear in the statehouse. For the boating and fishing industry in South Carolina to be protected and expanded, it needed a voice in Columbia which is what led SCBFA President and CEO Gettys Brannon to launch the organization.
“If you want to make change happen, you have to have a great message to deliver and a strong voice to deliver it, which we have had over these last two years,” said Brannon. “There is nothing partisan about boating and fishing. Everybody loves it.”
Brannon credits much of the Alliance’s early success to its Board and the leadership of Board Chairman and veteran boat dealer Chris Butler.
“Early on, industry leaders pointed out Chris Butler as the spark plug needed to organize the Alliance’s efforts,” said Brannon. “He has gone above and beyond in leading our board and exemplifies the leadership all organizations should look for in their leadership.”
Boating and fishing have been two pastimes engrained in the state’s history. They have also been a driving force for the state’s economy.
South Carolina is home to more than 30 boat manufacturers and fishing tackle manufacturers, 725,000 annual fishing licenses, and over 500,000 registered boats, all of which create a more than $5 billion impact on the state’s economy.
“The boating and fishing industry has been a hidden gem in our state’s economy,” said Brannon. “When you start looking at the number of people it employs, the number of people it affects, and the amount of revenue it produces, you realize that it is bigger than you think.”
Since its launch, SCBFA has worked with the state legislature to allow electronic licensing and titling, establish responsible wake laws, cap the sales tax on outboard motors, decrease property taxes for manufacturers, and increase funding to enhance stocking and hatcheries.
In the current session, the Alliance is working with state lawmakers to lower property taxes, abolish outboard titles and taxes, pass common sense boater safety laws, address abandoned vessels, establish a historic conservation trust fund, and secure funding for workforce development and schooling for the marine industry.
“We are grateful for the work of state legislature in helping us advance this industry,” said Brannon. “When the industry thrives, the state’s economy and its people thrive,”
While advancing the industry in Columbia, SCBFA has also worked to stop the senseless red tape and federal overreach in Washington.
Last summer, the Alliance successfully suspended the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) consideration of area closures in the Atlantic South until data from the ongoing South Atlantic Red Snapper Count is integrated into management decisions.
“We believe in sustainable fisheries and the impact they have on our economy,” said Brannon. “For a decision to be made without full data and knowledge of the issue is a bureaucratic overreach of the worst kind.”
SCBFA hopes to see the two-day season expanded, though a full closure would be catastrophic for local economies along the coast.
In addition to stopping the proposed closures, SCBFA is leading the legal fight against NOAA’s recently proposed speed restrictions. The regulation would broaden the current 10-knot (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 up to seven months during the prime fishing seasons. These new rules are to preserve the North Atlantic Right Whale population and prevent alleged vessel strikes, though NOAA has yet to identify a single instance.
“Outdoorsmen and women are the original conservationists. We want to protect marine life, but the parameters set on the speed regulation is trying to stop something that has never happened off of the coast of South Carolina,” said Brannon.
For too long, the groups that regulate the boating and fishing industry have been filled with those who do not have the industry’s best interest at heart. Last summer, SCBFA worked with Gov. Henry McMaster to successfully have industry leader Gary Borland of Pure Fishing named to the South Atlantic Fisheries Council.
“Gary Borland is an incredible appointment,” said Brannon. “He has devoted his life and career to this industry and will serve the fishing community well. We must ensure we can get more pro-boating and pro-fishing people like Gary on the boards and councils that regulate the industry.”
SCBFA has traveled to various events throughout the state to meet anglers and boaters, hear their concerns, and get them involved in the efforts.
For the last two seasons, SCBFA has partnered with the University of South Carolina athletics to host Boat, Fish, Football outside of Williams-Brice Stadium ahead of a Gamecock Football game. Fans can explore boats made in South Carolina and learn more about brands housed in the state.
“Who doesn’t love boats, fish, and football,” said Brannon. “We are grateful for Gamecock Athletics partnering with us and look forward to being back at Gamecock Village for seasons to come.”
The Alliance will be at events throughout the state this year to continue to grow the grassroots efforts of expanding boating and fishing in South Carolina.
One way you can join in the efforts is by becoming a member. For $25 a year, you can become an individual member, which supports our efforts and gives you access to events, exclusive content, and the SCBFA newsletter that keeps you updated on what is happening in the industry.
With your support, SCBFA can continue to protect and promote boating and fishing in South Carolina.
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Contributions to the organization are not deductible for federal income tax purposes as charitable contributions.