Friday, November 11, 2011

TRCP Media Summit

I'm just now catching up from a very hectic but satisfying month. I'm a little sleep deprived and a little overwhelmed right now, but that's good, it means there's lots to share from my little corner of the world.

TRCP board member Jim Martin speaks to guests at the Saltwater Media Summit

Hosting their first annual Saltwater Media Summit in Sarasota, FL at MOTE marine lab, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) invited me to attend as a member of their media team and to document the convention. For three days journalists, environmental writers, biologists, former lobbyists, and leading figures in the saltwater fishing community congregated to discuss the future of our fisheries and coasts. The shoot was to be pretty straightforward: afternoons filming indoors during presentations, evenings mixed with interviews and testimonials, and mornings filming backcountry fishing. By the end of the conference, TRCP wanted to be able to compile a video to release to potential attendees and sponsors for future events, so I would need to take both stills and video with enough footage to fill 4 minutes. Seems pretty easy, right? Well, if you're banking on two days of in-the-field video, which is the heart of the final product, and then you're suddenly only given ONE, you start to sweat a little.

Eric Schwabb, president of NOAA fisheries casts for ladyfish in the bay

TRCP decided to have this summit in Florida because our sunshine state has the largest fishing and boating industry in the US (17 billion dollars). We're a state that understands the importance of these businesses for our economy and we're trying to get it right. Fishing in Florida supports hundreds of thousands of jobs and steers the livelihoods of people from coast to coast. Fishing is a hot topic in the environmental community but the bottom line is that we need it, but we need to manage it properly. TRCP is helping by providing a network and platform for the marine scientists to converse with writers and the policy makers who affect change at the legislative and public levels.

Thursday morning I was scheduled to be in a boat fishing and filming with Whit Fosbourgh, president of TRCP and Guy Harvey, of, well, Guy Harvey. That is, until a rogue cold front sent straight from the devil himself shattered those chances with 30 mph winds. You can imagine how bummed I was. So instead, as a backup plan, MOTE marine lab offered us a tour of their aquaculture center.

A biologist at MOTE aquaculture center uses a sonogram to check a sleeping
sturgeon for eggs, while journalist Steve Waters looks on

I've been to many fish farms in the past, but they were only glorified holes in the ground that offered city-anglers the chance to catch their dinner. MOTE's facility was a fully self-sustaining laboratory that harvested sturgeon for caviar and filets. While I love to catch my own fish from the Atlantic, after three hours in their center, I started seeing this operation as a real solution to meeting market demands of threatened species or a slew of other fish for that matter.

Later on that evening the winds died down and we had a green light from the local fishing guides for our sunrise outing on Friday morning. Since this would be the meat of the final video, we decided to dedicate a chaser vessel strictly to bounce me around from boat to boat to get footage of as many anglers as possible. We had beautiful light and I was amazed at the diversity of fish that people were catching. One boat counted 12 species of fish in just three hours! If that doesn't speak to the productivity, diversity, and importance of Florida's waters, then I don't know what will.

In the three days at the summit I made some great connections and learned a lot about the necessary marriage between resource management and Florida's economy. I'm excited for the conversations that were sparked and even more thrilled about the actions that will follow. Spreading the word is what it's all about and I'm honored to be part of that movement.

TRCP board member Connie Parker and Bart Hudson, the president of the Florida House in 
Washington DC received two of my canvas prints as gifts for their support. 

Stay tuned for the video!

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