In the past, the International Game and Fish Association has received backlash for its fishing tournaments, claiming that the competitions disproportionately impact endangered and threatened fish populations. However, the IGFA has spent decades working toward creating sustainable fishing policies and contributing massively to global conservation efforts. The work of the IGFA was so commendable that they received accreditation in 2021 from the United Nations Environmental Program to globally represent recreational anglers and their conservation communities at the United Nations Environmental Assembly.
The IGFA is diligent in covering some of the most widespread problems in fishing. Sponsoring research, conservation and restoration efforts are only part of the international measures the IGFA puts forward to highlight respectful and sustainable fishing. Additionally, they work to establish fishing policies that mitigate fishing-related environmental damages and provide anglers with a way to fish recreationally while preserving the environment. Overall, the IGFA has established rules for fishing in freshwater and saltwater, all with the intention of promoting sustainable fishing practices that benefit both anglers and fish.
The IGFA is committed to protecting natural biodiversity in the world’s waters and funding research for critical species and ecosystems. Inland and bay ecosystems are of particular concern to the IGFA as they represent unique and critical habitats for a host of species. The IGFA states, “The Everglades and Florida Bay is an International Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site, and a Wetland of International Importance.” Therefore, it’s no surprise that the Everglades and Florida Bay are targeted habitats for the group’s restoration efforts. Billfish, roosterfish, and golden dorado are some specific species the IGFA has focused on conducting research and creating policies around in order to conserve the species for future generations while still allowing these fish to be caught.
The IGFA also takes special interest in the health of forage fish, an often underrepresented and neglected group of fish that are unprotected and taken advantage of. Despite the mistreatment forage fish receive, they are invaluable to the planet as a food source and as bait fish as well as being critical to marine food webs. Yet, despite their significance, forage fish are often unsustainably harvested.
Threatening forage fish indirectly leads to issues with populations of higher-ranking fish as prey fish populations dwindle and impact the food web. The IGFA supports research on forage fish in order to help inform more effective management strategies and to “make sure there’s enough fish at the bottom of the food chain to ensure that we have healthy populations of fish at the top.”
While some have been quick to condemn the IGFA’s fishing tournaments, the group is much more than these competitions. They are a decades-old nonprofit organization with a mission “committed to the conservation of game fish and the promotion of responsible, ethical angling practices, through science, education, rule making, record keeping and recognition of outstanding accomplishments in the field of angling.”
The IGFA remains an authority on game fish and angling-related matters while actively working with other nongovernmental organizations and international groups to protect aquatic species, habitats and ecosystems worldwide.