The International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades (ICAST) is an annual industry-only event that sees fishing industry leaders from around the world gather in Orlando, Fl.
The mission is promoting fishing industry commerce and innovation, a very worthy focus in its own right. But this year we noticed, even greater causes represented at ICAST, that of conservation, outreach to the hurting and youth.
In business it’s easy to get focused on business itself. After all, money is what fuels that engine.
Increasingly, we are seeing more businesses and fishing industry leaders taking a stand for great causes. In challenging times, it’s inspiring to see fishing become a vehicle for so much good.
This list in no way represents the totality of charitable activities at ICAST. These are just the ones we visited or spoke with firsthand.
Bajio: This relatively new producer of sunglasses has a mission focused on protecting the world’s saltwater flats. Their work is already too long to totally list for the sake of this piece but on the conservation end it’s comprehensive.
“Because our mission is to protect the world’s saltwater flats, every decision we make supports that quest. Sustainable business choices are key at each step along the way from design to packaging.”
They are currently involved in trash cleanups and flats restoration in Mexico and other initiatives to help local communities make an impact for conservation’s sake.
Shark Banz: This company produces effective shark deterrents that have been proven to keep sharks away from people and fish like large pelagics on the hook.
“Our hope is that new technology encourages coexistence with all of its creatures, promotes marine education and fosters a greater appreciation for the big blue. The future is our responsibility.
“As a company, we are proud to donate three percent of profits to shark and ocean conservation groups with targeted efforts to pass legislation and affect measurable, positive change on our world’s oceans. We like our toothy aquatic neighbors, but just prefer they keep their distance.”
Besides being a super intriguing product, they are aiding crucial conservation efforts.
St. Croix: St. Croix is known for its high-quality rods but they are also making real commitments to high school bass anglers.
In 2022, they sponsored the St. Croix High School Bass Conservation Challenge in Texas that saw participation from more than 40 schools.
This saw the creation of conservation awareness projects from students ranging from sixth-12th grade that will see the overall winner presented with a $1,000 scholarship and be recognized onstage at the Bassmaster Central Open at Sam Rayburn in October.
Costa: Costa has had a long history of conservation that is highlighted by their “Kick Plastic” campaign.
“Costa launched Kick Plastic to help reduce the amount of single-use plastic finding its way into our waterways, to reduce the amount of plastic we use as a company, and to mobilize a movement.”
To date this has translated to 44,000 pounds of lenses recycled at Costa headquarters, 3,000,000 plastic bottles eliminated through their guide program and 180,600 pounds of trash cleaned up from beaches.
Sims Fishing Products and Yeti: These two companies partnered at ICAST to host a conservation happy hour benefitting the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust’s (BTT) Florida Keys Initiative.
“Our science-based approach is multi-faceted; this includes genetics studies that revealed that a percentage of our Keys bonefish are spawned Belize, Mexico, and southwest Cuba. Motivated by this discovery, we established a long-term conservation hub in the Yucatán Peninsula to reduce commercial harvest and protect the habitats that support the international parents of our Keys bonefish, and we are active in Cuba as well.”
“ We also rely on fish tracking: our Tarpon Acoustic Tagging Project has successfully tagged and tracked 200 tarpon. We learned that our Florida Keys tarpon regularly migrate north to states including Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, where we worked to make tarpon catch-and-release only.”
“In the Florida Keys, our Project Permit, sponsored by COSTA, showed that permit begin spawning in April, a month before the closed harvest spawning protection season of May-July. Empowered by BTT science, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), extended the closed harvest season for permit to include the month of April.”
Hobie: Hobie and BRD CUSTOM have partnered to help support the people of Ukraine with a summer online #UnitedByWaterUkraine Fundraising Raffle with 100% of proceeds going directly to the charity Revived Soldiers Ukraine.
The ultimate goal of this fundraiser is to partner with the Hobie community to support those in need. You can purchase tickets online or donate to this cause.
We know there’s much more out there but these are some of the true feel-good stories we saw at the show.
There are many good things being done by the industry. TFG has said for a long time that ICAST shows the fishing industry is a friendly, giving group of people who are not satisfied with the status quo.
If there are challenges with fisheries and people, the fishing industry is there in various capacities to make a difference-for the good.