Florida Foundation for Responsible Angling, Inc.
The mission of the Foundation shall be to promote public awareness of and encourage the protection of marine fisheries and coastal habitats. This will be accomplished through displays, classes, seminars, presentations, clinics and other means designed to teach and promote responsible angling, particularly to Florida’s youth.
Creation of the FFRA
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection recognized the need for improved recreational fisheries and through its Division of Marine Resources developed a variety of educational programs to reach angler and non-angler alike. The success of programs like the Kids’ Fishing Clinic and Ladies, Let’s Go Fishing led to an outpouring of community support. The Foundation was developed as a means to coordinate financial and volunteer support for the Division’s education programs and to develop community programs such as Marine Educational Grants and a Saltwater Rod Loaner Program.
During fiscal year 97-98, the Outreach and Education Section (O&E) within the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Division of Marine Resources began receiving private financial contributions to purchase rods and reels for their Kids’ Fishing Clinic Program. In an effort to make accepting these contributions easier, the O&E section established, in May of 1998, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that encouraged responsible angling using programs focusing on the conservation of Florida’s marine habitats. The Florida Foundation for Responsible Angling, Inc. (FFRA) became a reality. The initial Board of Directors included Doug Haymans, Marsha Bierman, Scott Nichols, Diane Peebles, and Tom Putnam.
Using Florida Statute 370.0205 as a guide, the FFRA was to become a Citizen Support Organization (CSO) within DEP. But, at the time, a merger between the Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission (GFC) and the DEP occurred. Subsequently, no letter of agreement between the FFRA and DEP was executed.
Upon merging with the Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission on July 1, 1999, the FFRA voted to amend their Articles and By-laws to replace all references to “DEP and the Division of Marine Resources” with “FWC and the Division of Marine Fisheries.” Additionally, a letter was written to the Division of Corporations and signed by the then Director of the Division of Marine Fisheries stating that the FFRA is a “duly authorized citizen support organization”…in accordance with Section 372.0215 of the Florida Statutes. However, again, no letter of agreement between the FFRA and the FWC was ever executed.
The FFRA continued to act as a mechanism to purchase equipment for Kids’ Fishing Clinics by accepting private earmarked contributions and buying rods and reels from both Zebco and Shakespeare. FWC legal staff determined that due to differing statutory language governing CSO’s, the FFRA lost its status as a Citizen Support Organization on July 1, 1999 when the merger of the DEP and GFC took place. FWC legal staff decided that FFRA’s goals and objectives were not in conformance with the language allowing for the creation of CSO’s in that FFRA wished to pursue endeavors that were not “solely for the benefit of the Commission.” FFRA remained a separate entity from the FWC. A letter to the Foundation from FWC was drafted conveying this.
Kids’ Fishing Clinics
Several goals were established when the concept of fishing clinics for kids was put forth. First was to provide kids with a positive fishing experience. Surveys show that children who have a positive fishing experience prior to becoming teenagers are more likely to become lifetime anglers. Secondly, if kids are involved in a positive activity, such as fishing, they are less likely to develop troublesome habits. But most importantly, if children are taught at an early age the complexities and vulnerability of our marine resources, they are more inclined to act responsibly when it comes to the use of them.
These free clinics were comprised of a series of stations designed to give kids the basic skills necessary to fish and to educate them on the responsible way to use those skills. Educational exhibits and displays focus on Florida’s unique coastal habitat and marine life. The DEP provided marine biologists to help answer the difficult questions kids tend to ask. A Mobile Habitat Display, the “heart of the clinic,” was set up to teach participants to be good environmental stewards. This interactive, hands-on display demonstrates the importance of seagrasses, mangroves, and corals to fish and other marine life. Also included was a “touch tank” where the kids can actually pick up and hold crabs, fish, invertebrates, and marine plants.
Nineteen clinics were conducted in twelve coastal cities around Florida between July ’96 and October ’98. Total numbers for the clinics during that time included over 6,819 kids, 3,285 parents, and 944 community volunteers. Over 5000 children went home with a free rod and reel combo. The goal for all upcoming clinics was for every child to take a combo home. The average age of participants was eight years and 64% have been fishing less than five times (20% first timers). As of 2023, over 6200,000 kids have received fishing rods & reels at 1,532 different clinics in 227 cities throughout Florida.
Specialty License Plate
In an effort to expand the ability to fund aquatic education and angling related programs, the FFRA Board voted unanimously to pursue a specialty license plate during a meeting on April 18, 2000. At that time FFRA started doing business as Fish Florida to coincide with the name on the license plate. The intent was to establish a core pot of money to fund marine educational endeavors and promote responsible angling in Florida. The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) indicated that the FFRA would need 15,000 positive responses to a questionnaire that indicate registered vehicle owners would likely purchase the specialty plate, as well as a $60,000 application fee. These, along with a marketing plan and legislative language, had to be submitted to the DHSMV to be included and passed in the next legislative session. Board member Diane Peebles completed sailfish artwork to be used for the plate, and the specialty plate survey attached to an FWC Sport Fish Restoration survey was distributed through FFRA board member networks around the state.
“Recreational fisheries are an integral component of our national heritage and continue to play an important role in the social, cultural, and economic well-being of our Nation. We must strengthen our efforts in order to conserve, restore, and enhance aquatic systems to provide for increased recreational fishing opportunities nationwide. “
1 Biennial Report to the President of the United Slates. Federal Agency Implementation of Executive Order 12962 – Recreational Fisheries. Highlights of Accomplishments for Fiscal Years iyo.6-1997, Prepared by National Recreational Fisheries Coordination Council, Washington. D.C.
In 2006, then board member Kaye Pearson recommended Fish Florida establish an academic scholarship program for students studying in the field of marine science at Nova Southeastern University and the University of South Florida. That Program has grown to include the University of Miami, Florida Gulf Coast University and the University of North Florida. What is now known as the Kaye Pearson Memorial Scholarship Program has now provided 49 students with over $510,000 in scholarships. In 2021 Fish Florida funded a new scholarship program call the Forage Fish Research Program (FFRP) that is being conducted through the International Game Fish Association. The FFRP is a public-private partnership between the Fish & Wildlife Research Institute, leading academics, and the Florida Forage Fish Coalition designed to facilitate important research on Florida’s marine ecosystems while fostering the development of the next generation of marine scientists.
Fish Florida’s History of Accomplishments
Since Fish Florida’s inception, the non-profit has raised over 13 million dollars and purchased over 620,000 for kid’s clinics in Florida. Those funds have been distributed to 1,532 different organizations in 227 cities throughout Florida. Fish Florida has awarded 324 grants to 111 different organizations that total $1,610,000. Fish Florida has provided marine related scholarships to 49 students from 8 Florida Universities in the amount of $510,000.
Board of Directors
In 2023 The Fish Florida board of directors expanded to 11 fantastic board members. These individuals have all brought a incredible amount of talent and resources to the foundation that made it what it is today. They are listed in order of years of service to the Fish Florida board of directors:
- President Brendan Aloysius Barry Sea Ranch Lakes, FL
- Vice-President Lara Halenda North Lauderdale, FL
- Secretary Debbie Hanson Estero Gardens, FL
- Treasurer Bill Camp Tequesta, FL
- Brendan Aloysius Barry 2017-Present Sea Ranch Lakes, FL
- Bill Camp 2009-Present Tequesta, FL
- Emily Gale 2023-Present Weston, FL
- Lara Hanenda 2017-Present North Lauderdale, FL
- Debbie Hanson 2019-Present Estero Gardens, FL
- KK Kidder 2023-Present Jupiter, FL
- George Poveromo 2012-Present Parkland, FL
- Dr. Greg Tolley 2012-Present Fort Myers, FL
- Harry Vernon 2023-Present Key Biscayne, FL
- Jim William 2023-Present Jensen Beach, FL
- Dave Workman Jr. 2005-Present Jacksonville, FL
1841 West 10th Street, Suite #5
Riviera Beach, FL 33404