The Belize Game Fish Association has been promoting the sport of offshore fishing in Belize since 1987. During this time it has hosted numerous competitions that have seen anglers enjoy some of their best fishing experiences, all of which has helped to build the camaraderie of the Association’s members and forge lifelong friendships. Over the past 2 years, the BGFA has set a new goal to bolster its sustainability impact on the sportsfishing industry of Belize and has started by introducing a release system into its tournaments for billfish.

These release rules were introduced in November 2014 at the BGFA’s 6th Annual Blue Water Classic hosted out of the Radisson Fort George in Belize City, and to great success. The concept is simple. Each boat is given a release flag at the beginning of the tournament and when a billfish is brought alongside the boat, anglers take a video of the fish showing the flag in the frame, the leaderman touching the leader and the fish subsequently being released. Each species of billfish is allotted a set number of points for a catch and release, and the points are weighted in such a way that should a large “trophy fish” be caught, the boat will not be penalized for bringing it to the scale. Since this is a new concept to many anglers, the BGFA has left the option for a boat to bring a billfish to the scale if they are unsure of how to release a fish, although fewer points are allocated to fish that are killed. Since the introduction of this new rule, the BGFA’s anglers have released 7 of the 8 sailfish caught during its last two tournaments, as well as the only Blue Marlin. In addition, the initiative has spread to casual weekend fishing with a further 10 Sailfish and 1 Blue Marlin having been release by our members.

This of course was an initiative that needed much support as changing the way things have been done for many years is never an easy task. Much of the push came from the BGFA Membership which was the backbone of the support. Special mention must also be made of Oceana who sponsored the release points last November and who are a big supporter of the BGFA’s catch and release efforts. Looking near term at three to four years down the road, the BGFA intends to move all of its tournament to full catch and release, perhaps with the exception only of record fish.

The Belize Game Fish Association will be hosting its 7th Blue Water Classic out of the Radisson Fort George from November 19th to the 21st. Last year Captain Hillyboo Lara made the journey from San Pedro to the city to compete, and the BGFA would like to extend an invitation to all boats and fishing enthusiast of San Pedro to join us at Belize’s largest fishing competition. See you there!

Andrew Roe BGFA President