Let the Race Begin!

Rob Kramer blog

Rob Kramer blog

(left to right): IGFA Conservation Director Jason Schratwieser, angler Norman Pichardo and IGFA Trustee Pepe Anton.

IGFA's Great Marlin Race (GMR) launched this past week at the 58th Annual International Billfish Tournament of Club Náutico de San Juan in Puerto Rico. With a goal of deploying 50 satellite tags in marlin during 5 separate events in one year around the world, the IGFA GMR got off to a bang with all 10 of the 10 allotted tags for the San Juan event being sponsored before the first day of fishing. The concept behind the Great Marlin Race is simple. In the days leading up to a billfish tournament, angling teams are invited to sponsor tags to be placed on fish caught and released during the event. One hundred and twenty days after each tag is deployed, it automatically releases itself from the fish and its exact location is determined by earth-orbiting ARGOS satellites. In a given tournament, the tag that surfaces furthest from where it was initially deployed wins the race for that tournament. The overall winner of the annual IGFA GMR is the fish that travels the furthest in all the participating individual Great Marlin Race events for that year. In addition to the friendly competition and involving anglers in research, this effort is designed to increase the understanding of the biology, population structure and distribution of marlin through the use of pop-up satellite tags.

Along with me, IGFA Conservation Director Jason Schratwieser and Dr. Randy Kochevar from Stanford University (IGFA's partner in the Great Marlin Race) were on sight to distribute and help anglers deploy the 10 tags. Each sponsor received an instructional DVD, a tag and a tag applicator pole. And speaking of tag applicator poles, we were not quite prepared for the overwhelming interest and subsequently ended up 5 tagging poles short. The impediment was quickly resolved however when Jason and I located a True Value hardware store in Old San Juan where we proceeded to build five additional tagging poles out of Randy's spare titanium applicator tips, mop handles and $2.50 worth of other parts. We dubbed this model of tag stick the "Presidente Edition", which had less to do with me being IGFA President and more to do with the several cold Presidente Cervezas that Jason and I consumed while thinking up a suitable design. The only thing more unsettling than attaching a $4,000 satellite tag to a tag applicator pole worth less than $10 was to then hand it over to the sponsor who just paid the $4,000 for the tag. In the end, the poles worked great and we managed to get 7 of the ten tags deployed during the tournament, despite it being cut one day short due to Tropical Storm Maria. The remaining 3 tags will be deployed by the sponsors on their next marlin and will count towards the San Juan GMR even though they were not deployed during the event. The winner of the San Juan GMR will receive a free entry into next year's tournament.

For more information and details, check out http://www.igfa.org/Conserve/IGFA-GMR.aspx.