The Future of Billfishing
by Richard Churdy

If you love something, set it free. It’s not the exact or full quote and I’m pretty sure that the author wasn’t talking about a fish. Nevertheless, the sentiment seems to best express my feelings about billfish and their importance in the grand scheme of things. I ran across another quote that speaks volumes, and it goes like this - “A release today, is a fish tomorrow!” Yep, this guy is speaking my language. I wonder how many others feel the same way? To my surprise, a whole lot more than I anticipated and they’re doing a whole lot more than just talking about it.

The World Championship Billfish Release Tournament makes its debut in beautiful and billfish-bountiful Cabo San Lucas in May. Sure, there are plenty of other tournaments held here at the tip of the Baja peninsula, but this one takes conservation-minded protocols to a new and higher level. First, the mandatory use of circle hooks with either live or dead bait. Second, single hooks only, whether J or circle, on all artificial baits. Third, a tagging program which will assist The Billfish Foundation and others in the continuing research of billfish species and successful conservation methods. There is a long list of worthy endeavors undertaken by the tournament and those associated with it including direct benefits to the local community. Most important being support of the Nino’s del Capitan, an orphanage dedicated to making a difference in the lives of underprivileged children in Los Cabos.

Add a one-of-a-kind Billfish Tag Challenge to the mix and you have the makings of a socially and ecologically conscious tournament with a twist. The organizers have added a single tagged marlin – to be tagged and released three days prior to the start of fishing – that if caught will bring the lucky team or angler a $1,000,000.00 (USD) payout. Mexico has never seen anything like this in a fishing tournament, conservation-minded or not, and the thought of landing the “million dollar marlin” is sending a buzz through the ranks of big game sport fishermen around the globe.

The group that put this event together sports some impressive credentials and brings a world of knowledge and experience to the table. The reasons why they chose to become involved follow along the same path, a path that leads to a reversal in the decline of billfish populations. Amongst the committee members is Dr. Russ Nelson, marine scientist and Director of International Conservation Programs for The Billfish Foundation - http://www.billfish.org. When asked why he decided to support the tournament and provide his expertise, Dr. Nelson responded with the following. “Personally I have two motivations here. As a lifelong angler I am absolutely devoted to the joy of pursuing these great animals and hope my
daughters and their children have the opportunity to do the same. As a marine scientist I recognize the importance of billfish - sailfish, marlins, swordfish - as the apex predators of the marine pelagic ecosystem - predators whose presence preserves a natural balance of other fish species in the system. Threats to these billfish predators represent real threats to the stability and function of the entire system.” Dr. Nelson also added, “I think the time is right for Cabo (the town that marlin built) to move forward with a high profile all-release tournament. Cabo and Baja California Sur have made great progress in billfish and marine fisheries conservation over the last few years and now we want to showcase this conservation ethic to the whole billfishing world.”

Wayne Harmond, one of the WCBRT’s tournament directors said, “I chose to get involved with this group out of respect for them and as a chance to show others that tournament billfishing can have a conservation message and a social conscience and still be a great, fun experience. Indiscriminant drift net fishing and long lining have severely impacted the oceans creatures (not the least of which are the billfish populations). When you add the still popular tradition of sports harvesting of billfish, its clear that we have to show some personal responsibility if we're to change these practices. Baja, Mexico is a perfect example of a world-class billfishery that is in danger of losing one its greatest natural resources. I want to show that we can be good stewards of the oceans without compromising the pleasure and enjoyment of sport fishing.”

Minerva Saenz, owner of Minerva’s Baja Tackle in Cabo San Lucas - http://
www.minervas.com – the tournament headquarters in Cabo, was asked what she thought about the WCBRT. “What's there not to love about it, a tournament for fishermen by fishermen! This is a group of organizers who are not in it for the money but for the sport! First class all the way! Big dollars for releasing fish! This tournament is the future of jackpot fishing! It's important to point out that the WCBRT is also going to donate proceeds to local charities as well – the "Ninos del Capitan" and the FCP (Fundacion Para la Conservacion de Los Picudos, A.C.) or Mexican Billfish Foundation. The FCP has worked hard in Los Cabos, alongside other like-minded groups, to develop the first trust in Mexico that sets aside fishing license sales revenues in our state to billfish conservation.” Great reasons to think about getting involved yourself, whether as an angler or as a sponsor.

So why did we (CabosBest.com) get involved. I can site hundreds if not thousands of pages of scientific research that supports the position of the WCBRT and The Billfish Foundation. Facts are facts. If we do nothing but stay the present course, these glorious creatures will cease to exist and along with them, the delicate balance of our oceans’ ecosystems. If you love something, set if free. A release today is a fish tomorrow. The future of billfishing depends on it and it’s up to each of us to support these types of events and further the spread of conservation-minded tournaments worldwide.

For more information about the World Championship Billfish Release Tournament, visit their website at http://www.wcbrt.com or call 800-398-6863.
Richard Chudy is the President of CabosBest.com, http://www.cabosbest.com, and a lifelong saltwater angler with over twenty years of experience fishing all around the world including Cabo San Lucas and Baja California, Mexico.

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