DANIA BEACH, FL – On November 7th and 8th, Bonefish and Tarpon Trust hosted their 5th International Symposium at the IGFA Hall of Fame and Museum in Dania Beach, Florida. Hundreds of conservation minded attendees turned out for the educational and event packed weekend, all with a focus on raising awareness about the conservation of bonefish, tarpon, and permit.
Scientists from the United States, Canada, Brazil, Belize, the Bahamas, and Cuba were on hand to present their latest findings on a variety of topics concerning the three slam species. A number of fly and spin fishing clinics were held for the attendees to enjoy and there were also panel discussions with some of today’s most knowledgeable fishing guides and angling legends from around the world, sharing their insight and stories about bonefish, tarpon, and permit.
Friday evening saw the inaugural BTT Art and Film Festival, where some of the biggest names in saltwater art and photography displayed their work and helped raise funds for BTT. The festival also featured screenings of many excellent short films, all competing for a chance to win prizes from Orvis and Costa and the title of Viewer’s Choice. In the end, “Knockin’ On The Door” by WorldAngling took home the win. The winner of BTT’s Best Conservation Message went to Marc Montocchio for his trailer of the film “Origins Of The Sky.”
The highlight of the film screening was the world premier of “90 Miles“, in which filmmaker Will Benson of WorldAngling highlighted his recent trip to Cuba with BTT scientists and showed the world that although the US has had differences with its neighbor to the south, we also share many commonalities including a love for fishing and a passion for the conservation of our environment.
Capping off the two-day event was a Saturday evening silent auction followed by the “Passing The Torch” Banquet. The banquet celebrated some up and coming members of the saltwater fishing community in a short “Passing The Torch” film. The film highlighted Paul Puckett, Jorge Martinez, Captain C.A. Richardson, Captain Will Benson, Meredith McCord and Oliver White for their support of BTT and their efforts to promote conservation of bonefish, tarpon, and permit.
During the banquet, BTT awarded three Conservation Stewardship awards to deserving members of the fishing community. The Flats Stewardship Award went to former FWC commissioner Ken Wright for his tireless efforts in securing the catch and release status of bonefish and tarpon in Florida, as well as the banning of the “Boca Grande Jig”. The Lefty Kreh Sportsman of the Year Award was presented to Costa’s VP of Marketing, Al Perkinson, for his immense support of BTT through Project Permit, and the Curt Gowdy Media Memorial Award went to legendary author and Buccaneers and Bones star Tom McGuane.
The American Fisheries Society also presented Bonefish and Tarpon Trust with the prestigious Conservation Achievement Award for the Fisheries Management Section. This annual award recognizes an organization’s outstanding contributions to fishery conservation or fishery science. Upon receiving the award, BTT’s Director of Operations Dr. Aaron Adams noted, “BTT is extremely flattered and proud to receive this award from the American Fisheries Society. This award confirms the validity of our approach to fisheries conservation, and provides encouragement moving forward.”
The two day event saw roughly 350 registered attendees come through the doors and went on to gross nearly $117,000 for Bonefish and Tarpon Trust. Symposium Chairman Chris Peterson of Hell’s Bay Boatworks commented, “The scientific presentations were astronomically enlightening, the instruction sessions legendary, and the fellowship among like minded anglers…priceless.” BTT President Matt Connolly added, “Like me, I suspect that nearly all 350 Symposium attendees left inspired by the “Legends”, encouraged by the exciting scientific breakthroughs, and energized knowing their investment in BTT has delivered such dynamic returns in but three years! The many inspiring discoveries shared with us at the Symposium made it apparent that we must transform this emerging scientific knowledge into enlightened management of flats ecosystems throughout the Caribbean. It is a challenge BTT is now, more than ever, well prepared to meet!”