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President's Report
May 2017

I love this time year – so much optimism! The long days of summer in front of us and so much to look forward to.  As I write, hundreds of boats are preparing for Opening Day festivities, anglers are gearing up for shrimp, lingcod and salmon fishing, and we just wrapped up our fourth Northwest Paddling Festival at Lake Sammamish State Park May 12-13. 

Here is a rundown of a few topics on my mind from the first quarter of 2017

NMTA Newsletter - WaterLife
We’ve decided to make WaterLife a quarterly newsletter for both the print and electronic versions. I write this with some angst because monthly newsletters have been a staple of association and non-profits for decades, including the NMTA. That said, we have seven different social media channels with over 22,000 followers, a blog, and four websites (NMTA, Seattle Boat Show, Northwest Salmon Derby Series, Northwest Paddling Festival) to keep you in the loop. Going forward, the NMTA staff will further embrace these channels for sharing timely information and news with our members and other stakeholders. 

Seattle Boat Show Recap
What did we do right? What could we have done better? For the past 18 years, we have asked exhibitors and attendees these two questions after every show. Our staff and Boat Show Committee ask these questions year-round.

The first “did right” that comes to mind and is worth celebrating is that we had 51,684 enthusiastic boaters and buyers come to CenturyLink Field and/or South Lake Union. It’s important to point out we don’t count exhibitors or un-redeemed tickets. As reported to our exhibitors, this is 563 fewer attendees than we saw in 2016. I know we had buyers at the show because, thanks to UW SeaGrant and the Department of Licensing (DOL), we know that new unit sales for February were up 14.5 percent and the value of these new boats sold was up an impressive 133.6 percent.

We strive to increase our attendance every year and I was surprised and disappointed that we did not see even a small attendance increase. I was surprised because our advanced e-ticket sales were up 32 percent the day the show opened. I think we are a leader and innovator with our boat show digital, social media, and retargeted digital advertising. Our aggressive digital advertising was clearly driving ticket sales, but in the end, it appears attendees chose to buy their tickets online rather than at the box office. Our staff and Boat Show Committee are focused on how we will attract new boaters and inspire former boaters for 2018. If you have a suggestion or an idea, I’m all ears, and I encourage you to contact myself or Boat Show Director Katie McPhail.

Another “did right” is the quality and variety of our free boating and fishing seminars along with our paid Boat Show University seminars. Nearly 8,000 people attended these seminars that show our guests how to be successful on 155 different boating and fishing topics from A to Z - literally - anchoring to New Zealand cruising. The Seattle Boat Show is known nationally for our extensive list of seminars and seminar attendance. Our seminars help Northwest boaters be more successful and confident on the water, which increases boating activity and retention.

Attendees also love the variety and quality of our exhibitors. This year we had 442 different business on the exhibitor list for both locations. The Seattle Boat Show showcases all of the business types that make up the diverse Northwest boating ecosystem.

Twenty-three percent of our attendee comments about the show say the show is “great and can’t be improved.” I think that is impressive, but we must keep a close eye on other attendee comments that tell us what we can do better to improve for next year. The top 5 suggestions in order are: 1) more sailboats, 2) more affordable boats, 3) shorter lines at our Friday wine and beer tasting events, 4) more convenient and less expensive parking, and 5) unfriendly sales people. While all are areas worthy of attention, the third and fourth suggestions are areas that we can address most quickly. In particular, parking is something I will look to address for 2018, as well as better communicating the parking options. 

All in all, the 70th annual Seattle Boat Show was a huge success.  New boat sales were up impressively, nearly 1,000 new and brokerage boats were moved into two locations uneventfully, and over 50,000 boaters were inspired for another year of Northwest boating.

Sales Data
First quarter Washington state sales data is available now in the Members Only section of www.NMTA.net. As I mentioned above, February saw an impressive increase in both units and value. However, for Quarter 1, new unit sales are essentially flat with new units down 15 boats (or minus 2.1 percent) and values up 17.4 percent. For those of you that have registered a boat recently with DOL, you may have noticed that they have updated their data systems (DRIVES as DOL calls them) and are asking for new information and have added new choices such as POD drives for propulsion and a completely new category for fuel type. For 2017, it will make direct comparisons to previous years a bit challenging when looking closely at vessel characteristics, but going forward it should give us better information about the fleet of recreational boats in Washington.

Board Elections & Bylaw Change
Members should have received a paper ballot for our annual election of three NMTA voting members to serve on the NMTA Board of Trustees. You can view the Board Bios here. Elected Board members serve a 3-year term and meet monthly with fiduciary responsibility for the association. In other words – they guide the association strategically, set policy, approve the annual budget and act in the best interest of our members.

A paper ballot with multiple envelopes seems awfully outdated today and that is what the proposed Bylaw revision addresses. If you would think it would be helpful for NMTA to vote electronically than please vote to approve the bylaw revision. This revision has been unanimously approved by the NMTA Board and reviewed by our legal counsel, and I think it will make it easier for more of our members to vote.

Salmon Fishing Opportunity
For those of you that depend on recreational fishing opportunity for your business, particularly salmon fishing, you were likely following this year’s North of Falcon negotiations between the co-managers (Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Treaty Tribes). Compared to last year, the outcome this year was significantly better, because in the end there was an agreement. Last year, for the first time ever since North of Falcon began in the early 1980s there was no agreement on saltwater salmon seasons resulting in anglers asking themselves if they would be able to fish at all in 2016. In the end, an agreement was reached last year, but the damage was already done. Trailerable boat sales, the majority of which are used for fishing, pretty much stopped and we saw no increase in our year-end totals of trailerable boats.

I encourage you to read this month’s Tony’s Tackle Box from our Director of Fishing Affairs Tony Floor, to hear from Tony, as only Tony can, give you his recap of North of Falcon and his outlook for the year. It’s important to point out that Mother Nature has not been kind to salmon the past two years with high water temperatures, and biologists expecting at least another year of similar conditions. There were serious conservation issues the co-managers needed to address, which resulted in less opportunity than in recent years. It’s important to remind our members that like WDFW and its biologists, NMTA fully supports Mark Selective Fishing (MSF) as our number one conservation tool. In simple terms, this means catch and release of wild Chinook and coho salmon, and harvest of marked hatchery fish. Our state invests millions of taxpayer dollars and a significant portion of our yearly license fees so we can have recreational and commercial fisheries. NMTA will continue to work to make sure recreational anglers have access to these fish.

Have a great summer and see you on the water.

George Harris

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