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Billfish Conservation Act: When the News Broke
by Jason Schratwieser

For those who haven’t been following IGFA’s efforts on Capitol Hill in trying to pass a law that would end the importation of billfish (marlin, sailfish and spearfish) to the U.S. mainland, I’m pleased to inform you that the Billfish Conservation Act of 2011 was officially signed into law by President Barack Obama on Friday, October 5.

Obama’s signature represented the culmination of nearly four years of trials and tribulations for IGFA and the National Coalition for Marine Conservation, who worked side-by-side with us on this initiative from the very beginning. During those four years, our hopes were repeatedly buoyed, only to be smashed time and again. However, things started to get really interesting when the House version of the bill was passed in Congress on September 10.

At this point, we actually started to believe that this deal might have a shot but were afraid to get too hopeful, as it still had to pass the Senate and, in particular, a very powerful senator from Hawaii. We waited on pins and needles for over a week as rumors circulated that the bill would be heard any day. Ultimately, the Billfish Conservation Act passed the Senate very late at night on Friday, September 22.

As luck would have it, IGFA President Rob Kramer and I heard the news at exactly the same time around 5:30 a.m the next day. No, we weren’t camped out in the office awaiting word from our lobbyists in D.C. We were actually in my truck, trailering my new skiff on our way to fish Flamingo in Everglades National Park.

Just in case, we had a press release ready to go, and we sent an email to our media specialist to let it fly ASAP. After a few moments of silence and disbelief, I looked over at Kramer and asked if we should turn around and head into the office to field phone calls. His response: “Hell no! I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than to go fishing!”

So fish we did! We had an epic day, catching loads of snook, redfish and baby tarpon on fly and light tackle deep in the Glades backcountry. In between having our popping flies and jigs crushed by fish, we’d pause every once in a while and marvel at what had happened, where we were and how we were celebrating the accomplishment. It was a great day, for so many reasons.

As fate had it, Rob, myself and several other IGFA staff were together again when we received word that the president had signed the bill into law. It was afterhours on a Friday, and several of us were enjoying a few beers in a great little bar in the Bass Pro Shops that’s situated a scant 50 yards or so from IGFA headquarters. (Those of you that visit IGFA and our neighbor Bass Pro know exactly where I’m talking about.)

This bar is filled with old pictures, tackle, mounts and other fishing memorabilia. I’ve always liked the name of this bar, but thought it exceptionally apropos that particular evening. Its name, you ask? The Marlin Bar