I learned to love fish as a child at my home in Pennsylvania in the USA, where we had a fish pond. We realised from early on that if we released our fish, they would be more likely to thrive and reproduce. My business ventures brought me to Florida, working as the marketing manager for large boat companies, and it was here that I learned about saltwater fishing.
I launched my marine industry marketing firm MetroMedia Marketing, which specialises in the fishing sector, and subsequently partnered with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to produce a series of ‘Ladies, Let’s Go Fishing!’ seminars around the state. Aiming to show women who take up angling how to put conservation skills into practice and why it’s important to do so, the seminars have produced 8,000 graduates. As a result of them, I have been presented with the Sportsman of the Year Award in our nation’s capital and been recognised in USA Today, the television show Inside Edition and countless other national media, bringing further recognition to the sport.
I work with many organisations that promote conservation in fishing. As a saltwater angler, I am the first to see what is happening in the seas and how we can preserve sea life for the future. Anglers are the first to react when the marine environment is threatened and, through their excise tackle taxes that go into the Sport Fish Restoration Program, their contributions are primarily responsible for the majority of the fish conservation efforts in the USA.
Sometimes anglers looking for fish for dinner accidently hook sharks, rays and other species they don’t intend to keep. My project is to educate them as to why and how they can release these unwanted fish to give them a good chance of surviving. Having practised such release techniques on fish myself, I know the average angler can do it too!
Through my contacts in the fishing industry I have seen the latest equipment designed to facilitate the release of fish and I know how easy it is to use. My objective is to share this knowledge with as many anglers as possible. With my promotional background and contacts, I am in a perfect position to accomplish this. For more than 30 years my company has been building alliances with the marine and fishing industries and marketing projects for them, and we can provide the infrastructure and contacts needed to build global alliances. We also have relationships with the most influential media in the USA and contacts in others around the world, and have a good rapport with all the conservation agencies in the southern states.
My next goal is to spread the word in other countries, such as the Bahamas where subsistence fishers are less aware of how their actions today affect the fisheries of the future. I was crushed to see reefs there that had been bleached to harvest lobster and thus been killed for ever – beautiful coral turned white and dead. Information about how destructive this kind of fishing is has to be passed on through education, as people see how plentiful fish are and don’t realise that they are a finite resource.
Overall, my aim is to spread awareness about how individuals can contribute to the preservation of our marine fisheries, and in terms that the average person can understand. One person’s observance of conservation is like a drop of water in a bucket; multiple people can fill the bucket and the marine resource – our fishery – is the winner!