The Billfish Foundation is a science based conservation organization that works to promote healthy fish populations and a thriving sportfishing industry. They do great work. Whether you’ve caught 1,000 marlin or are planning to catch your first, here’s why you should join The Billfish Foundation.
If you’re reading this, there’s a better chance than not that you like fishing. In fact, I’ll bet that you’d rather be chasing something around offshore than doing whatever it is that you happen to be doing now.
If you fit the profile of many fishermen, the thought of ocean conservation does not engender the same excitement as the thought of fishing. This disconnect—that between the thrill of catching a marlin and all of the hard work that goes into making it possible— exists for many people.
What if the investment in conservation were not some abstract chore that you feel somehow obligated to perform, but rather a part of your fishing routine?
That which follows is a new take on the idea of conservation.
What if being part of keeping fish populations healthy were as celebrated a fishing ritual as filling the Yeti with beer before heading offshore? After all, why shouldn’t seeing your TBF member card bring the same pride and happy recollections that you get when you post the picture of that swordfish you greased last week?
After thinking on the subject, I believe that it should. What follows is not only why you should join The Billfish Foundation, but how your membership—and being part of a team that does incredible work on our behalf—reflects your identity as a sportsman.
Reason 1: Fishing Is A Wonderful Compilation of Passions
Were you to talk to my wife (or any other person “non-fishing” individual who shares his or her household with a fisherman), you might discover that the passion for the activity is all consuming. It’s not something that ends when you step off the boat.
A fisherman likes to read about fishing. He hangs pictures of fish around his home and office.
He wears clothes with fish on them… and Costa sunglasses made for fishing (even in the grocery store). He probably has a few fish-related bumper stickers on his truck.
His social media accounts are more likely than not to have a Meme or GIF that questions the masculinity of men who don’t fish. He may even have something with scales tattooed on his body—likely the forearm, calf, back or shoulder.
Thankfully the marlin neck tattoo has not caught on yet.
Why do fishermen surround themselves with all of this paraphernalia? Scottish politician John Buchan once said, “The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.”
A Fisherman’s Identity
There is a corollary to this wonderful quote that relates to a fisherman’s identity.
A fisherman surrounds himself with fish pictures and references because each brings him joy. Each is a reminder of his passion.
The act of joining The Billfish Foundation is, in fact, no different. Wearing the TBF member t-shirt is not unlike the sentiment expressed by the Cajun guy wearing his 2019 LSU National Champions shirt.
Thibodaux’s shirt tells the world that his team kicked your team’s ass. Your TBF shirt expresses your membership not just in an organization, but in an activity (catching marlin and sailfish) that is perhaps the most exciting thing in the world.
Reason 2: Conservation IS WORKING
Under normal circumstances, ocean fish conservation is a very difficult thing to market. When selling people on the importance of being involved in something, cause and effect is a great tool.
People enjoy being part of something in which they can see their contribution working. Pay $10 and the tree foundation will plant a tree with your name on it…
Give $5 to the cat people and they’ll feed a herd of strays for a week. You might even get a cat bumper sticker… meow.
When it comes to conserving ocean fish, there are fewer options to show how an individual contribution makes a difference. The oceans, after all, are giant places and fish swim thousands of miles across them.
Add to the sheer size of the oceans (the Pacific Ocean is 12,000 miles wide), that there are hundreds of thousands of hooks and nets deployed in every ocean trying to kill and sell the fish that we love to catch. With all of commercial fishing interests in the world—and the global market into which they sell their catch—it tends to be nearly impossible to control, quantify, or regulate harvests of pelagic fisheries on a meaningful, global scale.
The combined scale and complexity of ocean conservation makes many people feel like there is nothing else they can do aside from practicing catch and release. This would be a perfectly reasonable sentiment but for the fact CONSERVATION IS WORKING (and The Billfish Foundation is directly empowering it).
Here’s the Proof
The Atlantic Ocean provides all the proof you need. The present is something of a golden age for sportfishing in the United States.
No matter what kind of big ass ocean going fish that you are after, people are catching more of them now than they did 15 or 20 years ago. This is not a word of a lie…
From Nova Scotia to Texas—and all of the waters in between—sportfishermen are literally catching the Hell out of broadbill swordfish. Not only are the numbers ridiculous, people are whacking giant, Zane Gray sized swords.
Nick Stanzcyk caught an Islamorada dinosaur that weighed 757 pounds. From the canyons off of the northeast to the Gulf of Mexico—deep dropping in the day and drifting at night, there are swordfish everywhere.
In fact, there are so many of these tasty creatures swimming around that it is easy to forget that the swordfish fishery was closed commercially in 2001 because there were not enough of them. After nearly two decades of targeted conservation work and responsible management, the fishery is wide open for all to enjoy.
The Billfish Foundation has been involved in every step of the way—fighting those who would open zones closed to long lines and working to retain international quota for the United States.
White marlin are perhaps the best example of how well and intelligently The Billfish Foundation works on our behalf– and why you should join them. The fishing for these things is so good these days that we take for granted that every year boats out of Virginia Beach and Ocean City will put up a 50 fish day or two.
Whites are thick in the DR, the Bahamas, the Carolinas, and the Gulf too. They are so plentiful in fact, that we may overlook that in 2001 there was proposed legislation that would have listed the damned things as endangered.
The Billfish Foundation—as it fights for conservation of the fish that we like to catch, also fights for the sportfishing industry. TBF, just as it worked to promote responsible white marlin management, tenaciously fought listing of white marlin as endangered.
Why would TBF have fought such a measure? To keep us fishing, that’s why.
If something is listed as endangered, all kinds of rules are put into place to moderate gear that might accidentally catch them. That would have meant rubber hooks on your blue marlin lures and that the only permissible offshore activity would be kingfish fishin’.
(This is a bit of an exaggeration—but an endangered listing for white marlin would have been a bad deal for anybody who likes marlin, sailfish or tuna fishing).
How’s the White Marlin Fishing Now?
The Ocean City Marlin Club has been keeping catch records for decades. 2010 was the best white marlin fishing year in its history. The past decade, in fact, has produced three of the top ten catch years in the Club’s 80-plus year history.
Captain Franky Pettolina, Club President and captain of Last Call charters, is not shy about stating the reason. “It’s because of conservation. I remember The Billfish Foundation’s slogan in the 80s… ‘How many fish will there be in 2001?’”
The white marlin fishing in the late 80s and 90s was not nearly as good as it is now. The change is not by accident, but a result of concerted conservation effort.
The Billfish Foundation has been in the middle of it.
Bluefin tuna are another super tasty reason why we should all support the work of The Billfish Foundation. 2020 has been an incredible year for bluefin tuna.
Anglers are catching them from Nova Scotia, through New England, off of the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, North Carolina and in the Gulf. Have you seen the videos of the guys at the Mexican Gulf Fishing Company hand feeding a school of them off of Louisiana?
The Texas state record was broken in Texas this year and giant bluefin are no longer surprises in Gulf tournaments over the summer. Sightings of schools of giants used to be the thing of history books, but lately there are reports coming in from all over the place.
Bluefin tuna, like white marlin and swordfish, were in rough shape a decade and a half ago. The Billfish Foundation’s work directly benefits these things too.
The blue marlin fishing in the United States is great right now. In the Gulf, live baiters are regularly tangling with 600 and 700 pounders.
Fish of this size used to be a rarity. Gulf boats are also putting up some great blue marlin numbers.
Blue marlin fishing up the East Coast is also good. They are even catching the things in South Florida…
What do Blue Marlin, Bluefin Tuna, Swordfish and White Marlin have in common (and why should you join The Billfish Foundation)?
- Sportfishermen are catching lots and lots of them these days. Catch rates are especially good when you compare the current with the state of 15 or 20 years ago. (This is a bit of a general statement, but it on the whole it bears true in most places and contexts).
- The Billfish Foundation has been DIRECTLY involved in the types of conservation and management work that has produced the results. This work includes:
a. Fisheries management councils in the United States and working with ICCAT (the international management body)
b. Scientific research
c. Advocacy work to promote conservation and make people aware of the issues.
d. Showing how much money and how many jobs are supported by these fisheries.
- These fish sell boats, sell charters, fill hotel rooms, and dictate vacation plans. There are an awful lot of people whose livelihood depends on them. There are even more people who dream of catching them.
Reason 3: Context
Why should you join The Billfish Foundation?
A TBF membership costs $50. Unless you’re drinking diet coke, you can’t even get a bar tab for $50 in most places.
You can buy a membership to TBF or feed a family of four at a fast food restaurant twice! If you own a boat, you spend more on wax every year than you would on a TBF membership.
In fact, if your frame of reference relates to offshore fishing, $50 is cheap!
This $50 contributes directly to work that is directly responsible for how good the offshore fishing is right now. Not only is there proof that it’s making a difference, being a member makes you a part of something special.
After all, there may be nothing in the world more exciting than catching a marlin.
Pulling out your wallet to buy a membership to TBF should be just as much a part of the fishing ritual as buying a round of shots to celebrate catching a grand slam. Everybody loves catching them, why not celebrate the act of making it all possible?
Give ’em a call– 954.938.0150. Tell them Elliott sent you.