The 3rd Annual Ft. Myers Beach Kingfish Shootout - scheduled for March 26-28 - will, for the first time, require all participating anglers to carry EPIRBs (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons), satellite detectable emergency rescue beacons aboard their boats.
Alberto Abad, president of Mambo Promotions and director of the tournament, said the impetus for the new tournament rule came after a highly publicized Gulf of Mexico accident last March, which resulted in three lives lost and a three-day search covering over 16,000 square miles at the cost of an estimated $1.6 million. The accident occurred when four friends out fishing hit bad weather in a 21-foot boat and were unable to signal for a rescue. They did not have an EPIRB aboard.
"Requiring a beacon has never been done before in a fishing tournament. There's nothing negative about it. It's a mindset we're trying to enforce," Abad said. "Most of the people who fish the event are experienced fishermen who understand safety. Those who fish off this coast always have to go out far, at least 50 miles, before it gets deep."
The tournament is sanctioned by the Southern Kingfish Association (SKA), which currently recommends its tournament participants carry a ditch bag containing EPIRBs and Personal Locator Beacons. In 2011, SKA will require the equipment to be aboard all boats fishing in SKA tournaments.