Recreational fishing has reached new diversity milestones, according to a new industry study from the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF). The 2020 Special Report on Fishing found that 3.7 million African Americans participate in fishing, an increase of nearly 1 million over the last 10 years.

“The outdoors belongs to all of us — not just those who fit a certain image,” said Stephanie Vatalaro, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications for RBFF. “Fishing is about enjoying nature, making memories and bonding with the people you love. It’s an experience that everyone should get a chance to have, which is why our work is grounded in the belief that the water is open to everyone.”

The new participation data comes as Americans overall take increased interest in fishing as a remedy for COVID-19-related stress and anxiety. According to a separate study, 1 in 5 Americans are more likely now to try fishing than they were prior to the pandemic. Among parents, the statistic is 1 in 4.

“Social distancing has taken a sizable toll on our collective mental health,” said Vatalaro. “But being on the water has been shown in studies to have a calming effect that can help treat stress and anxiety naturally. Fishing — and by extension, boating — are excellent ways to practice self-care and recreate responsibly.”

To help further increase diversity in fishing and boating, RBFF has launched a new public service initiative called Get On Board in partnership with Discover Boating. The campaign aims to raise awareness about the ways people from all walks of life can support their mental health and wellness on the water.

Outside Get On Board, RBFF’s ongoing commitment to underrepresented audiences on the water has made the organization an industry leader in diversity and inclusion.

Launched in 2014, Vamos A Pescar™ is the organization’s Hispanic outreach initiative, the first of its kind in the fishing and boating industry. The campaign helps Hispanic families break through perceived barriers to the sport through the George H. W. Bush Vamos A Pescar™ Education Fund.

In 2018, RBFF launched its Women Making Waves social media movement to increase female visibility in fishing. While 43 percent of new participants are female, only 18 percent see themselves represented in the activity. Together with influencer partners and an online community, Women Making Waves aims to represent all women on the water.

Additional diversity initiatives from RBFF include the Stories of Mentors and I Am an Angler campaigns. Through spotlighting the personal experiences of diverse fishing participants, RBFF is committed to challenging stereotypes and empowering the next generation in fishing and boating.

The Special Report on Fishing is created in partnership with the Outdoor Foundation and provides one of the most comprehensive looks at the state of U.S. fishing and boating participation. The full report, along with an accompanying infographic, is available at The website also features beginner resources including how-to guides for getting started fishing and boating, an interactive map of places to fish and boat, as well as links to COVID-19 safety guidelines.

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