Rule to Be Kind

The IGFA contemplates a revolutionary record program.

cn_conservation_220x267.jpg

|| |---| || |MEASURE UP: Record fish will live on measurements, photos and the wild. Illustration: Drew Friedman| Responding to the conservation demands of a finite world, the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) has begun to develop a system to recognize great catches while capitalizing on the sustainability of the resource. Two years ago, Guy Harvey, the famous marine artist and angler, and Bill Shedd of tackle-maker AFTCO, urged the conservation committee of the IGFA to consider a record-by-length category. The new class of records would be added to-not replace-the existing categories measured by weight that the IGFA has administered for years. This idea made its way from the conservation committee to the IGFA's board of trustees, getting poked, pinched and tweaked along the way.

Last summer, the idea was floated to the International Committee of Representatives on which I serve. After receiving the request for comments, all representatives had plenty of e-mails to read, with responses that fell into two categories: hate and love. One representative said it seemed like a Pandora's box that probably should not be opened.

But many representatives approved. "Any program that encourages the release of fish helps our image in an increasingly ¿¿green' environment," said Darrell Ticehurst of California. The proponents seem to have won.

On the Record
If approved, the new category will let an angler establish a new record for certain species by measuring the fish at the catch site and releasing it alive. For more than 65 years, the IGFA has promoted angler ethics and recorded notable accomplishments with integrity and authority. The organization is developing this new program to build on the history of angler achievement while encouraging worldwide conservation of resources.

The new record class may be called the Release Only Record by Length category. It will cover both fresh and salt water, but will not include hard-to-handle species, such as sharks and billfish. The program will begin with only all-tackle records, not line classes.

Work in Progress
When the IGFA announced the proposed system to the representatives, discussions revealed concern that the length records would replace or undermine existing records and negatively affect the integrity of the IGFA.

This category was never meant to supplant the existing records. The idea was to help the IGFA promote conservation. Catch and release is established in the U.S., where a growing number of records have been weighed and released alive-not the case everywhere.

"In my country, anglers will release more of their catch," said Juan Jos¿ "Pepe" B. Ant-n, a member of the IGFA International Committee from Ecuador, "simply because the IGFA sanctioned a release category and established guidelines on how to handle and release fish properly."

The committee tried to incorporate such input into the new system. One concern was the ability to measure fish accurately to reflect a straight line, not the longer, curved line of the side of thicker, rounder fish like tuna. Work began on a certified measuring device and IGFA representatives are testing prototypes. If a design proves reliable, it is expected to become the only means of measurement allowed for the program. This restriction may limit participation early on.

Accurate measurement will be critical. The application process will probably also require a photograph of the fish on the device-challenging anglers to find a camera that can fit the entire fish in one frame at close range.

In the history of the IGFA and the process of establishing, tracking and awarding world records, there has been a great deal of evolution, and it will be the same here. Release records are a good idea that will change and grow with experience and time.

Release Clearinghouse
Shedd notes the new program will encourage the IGFA to assemble data on release techniques, and to package and distribute this information. The network of representatives can track and test new methods and devices to see just how they work.

Skeptics are concerned that this new program will promote cheating. But it is not a radical departure from historic practices-the same angling rules will remain, including a formal application procedure. There will be attempts at cheating. But the same thing happened to the current world-record system and it seems to have rooted out most of them.

This program could promote better angling practices and recognize angler achievement-the same things the IGFA has been doing for a long time. The new category could help anglers spread the word about sustainable fishing methods that will ensure the future of angling.

Rule Maker
This prototype device may be the future of world-record catches.

| |TESTING: Still in development, the ruler selected by the IGFA may be required to appear in any record-claim photograph. Illustration: Pete Sucheski| We got a glimpse of a sample ruler that the IGFA is developing to use with the Release Only Record by Length category. To use it, push the nose of the live fish against the vertical surface of the attached end block. Note where the center of the tail falls on the soft-plastic ruler. If that part of the tail lands between 40 and 41 cm, the measurement is 40 cm. Take a photo of the fish on the ruler. Good luck.