Did you know that small boat captain licenses in Florida increased 27% since 2009? This rapid growth in the for-hire fishing guide sector speaks to the vast popularity of recreational fishing in Florida. It can be difficult to set yourself apart in such a crowded field. What’s more, increasing fishing activity can lead to increased strain on Florida’s fish and their habitats. Enter: the Florida Friendly Fishing Guide certification – a great way for you to set yourself apart all while doing your part to sustain Florida’s fishing future.
Economic and environmental benefits
In a statewide survey, 85% of fishing guides said they were interested in a certification program focused on environmental best management practices (BMPs). Why would this be so? Firstly, earning the title of Florida Friendly Fishing Guide is a great marketing tool. Guides could use the certification to increase booking rates, grow market share, or enhance visibility. It’s also a great way to create reputation for minimizing your environmental footprint. This could be key in attracting new types of clients with diverse environmental ethics.
And, of course, there are direct environmental benefits. Florida Friendly Fishing Guides apply sustainable fishing and boating BMPs that reduce environmental impacts. Furthermore, thousands of clients will learn about BMPs from the guides and, ideally, carry these best practices back to their own solo fishing trips. All of this adds up to increased protection for Florida’s fisheries resources.
Becoming a Florida Friendly Fishing Guide
The Florida Friendly Fishing Guide program is offered entirely online with a flexible schedule. The course covers science-based techniques that ensure a minimal environmental footprint of fishing. Once you complete the course, you will receive a certification emblem and decal to display on your website and vessel, letting your customers know that you adhere to the highest environmental standards. You will also be listed on UF/IFAS and Florida Sea Grant’s directory of certified guides and receive a swag bag from our sponsors.
The course contains eight educational modules that cover the following topics:
- Introduction to Fisheries Management
- Best Practices for Catch and Release Fishing
- Seafood Safety and Handling
- Sustainable Waste Management and Fueling
- Overview of Marine Ecology
- Environmental Ethics
- Sustainable On-board Materials
- Giving Back to Fisheries Management and Research
The course takes approximately four hours to complete and you can take it at your own pace in 20- to 30-minute chunks. The course is accessible via computer or smart phone/tablet. The certification is valid for three years and is offered for a registration fee of $130. A refresher course (shorter version of full course) will be required for re-certification. Registration is open starting Sept. 1, 2019 here: https://ifas-seagrant.catalog.instructure.com/.