• Published:July 24, 2017
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It's not every day you get to share some good news.

Today's news cycle is overrun with depressing stories, no matter what side of the aisle you're sitting on. So, it is with great pleasure that I sit down to write about two companies that I respect greatly, not only for their commitment to recreational fishing, but for putting their money where their collective mouths are.
Right before the recent ICAST tackle show in Orlando, Florida, I received a note from Bill Shedd, who owns and operates AFTCO, makers of apparel, rod components, gaffs and much more. He told me that instead of investing $40,000 into an elaborate trade show booth and all of the shipping and set-up costs, his team decided to scale back and give whatever money they saved to marine conservation.

The AFCTO crew brought what they called a barebones booth (it still looked really nice to me) and put together a lot of it with materials purchased from a hardware store. Shedd then took the $20,000 they saved and matched it with another $22,000 and wrote a total of six checks for $7,000 a piece to well-respected fishing organizations that are battling it out on our behalf.

The checks went to the International Game Fish Association, Coastal Conservation Association, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, Center for Sportfishing Policy, American Sportfishing Association and the Hubbs Sea World Research Institute.

To celebrate raising this dough for conservation Shedd did something very un-AFTCO. He sponsored a happy hour during show hours. Shedd stood up on a table, addressed the crowd, explained his company’s mission and how it has given 10 percent of its profits back to conservation each year since his family purchased AFCTO in the 1970s. In 2016 AFTCO contributed more than $475,000 to conservation and sportfishing organizations and efforts.

In addition to money, Shedd also spends countless hours every year addressing marine issues and sits on many boards and committees. Thank you Mr. Shedd and your family for coming up with this great idea. I hope more companies follow your lead. To read more about AFTCO’s 10 percent back to conservation visit aftco.com.


Another company that also puts money into worthwhile causes is Costa. At ICAST, we attended a sponsored lunch and heard more about the company’s Kick Plastic campaign. If you spend any time on the water, you’ve seen a million bags, bottles, buckets and other floating plastic debris out there. Each year there are 200 billion plastic bottles created. Ten percent of them end up in our waterways. Five massive garbage patches exist in our oceans. Two-thirds of our fish test positive for plastics. Plastic may break down over time into smaller pieces, but it never goes away. Anglers find plastic silverware in the bellies of fish. Everyone I know has rescued a bird or a turtle they found entangled in a bag or six-pack holder. You get the idea. Plastics in our oceans is a massive issue.

Whenever faced with a such a large global problem, many of us often think, well, how can I as just one person make much of a difference? Costa is showing us. The company invited a group of panelists to address the audience about how they are reducing the amount of plastic they use in their marine businesses. A trout guide from California told us how on a typical trip he would use 12 to 20 plastic water bottles. To curb his plastic usage, he invested in some quality metal cups and water bottles, such as the Yeti cups that are popular now. He bought a water filter pitcher and washes and refills the water bottles before a river trip on his drift boat. The end result: a few thousand less water bottles each year, and a cost savings in the $300 range. And, his cooler is now much lighter, which his back is very thankful for after a long day on the water. This is how a one-man operation can make a big difference.

On the fishing lodge side, Kristen Salazar discussed how Casa Vieja Lodge in Guatemala is doing its part to reduce plastic. If you have never been to Casa Vieja, you’re missing out. This lodge is located in probably the best sailfishing destination in the world. But more than that, the lodge offers five-star accommodations and dining options. However, when people from the United States travel to Guatemala, they tend to want the safety of a water bottle. Drinking water from a glass is a bit unnerving for anyone who’s gone home with the trots. To battle that, Casa Vieja has put signage in all of their rooms about the Kick Plastic campaign and assures their guests how all of the drinking water provided is safe, but encourages them to use cups and pitchers rather than plastic water bottles.

Water bottles on the boats is a tougher problem to solve, but they are working on it. This lodge operates nine boats that fish with four to six anglers and crew every day. If you figure each person drinks three water bottles each day, that’s 135 to 150 water bottles each day that all boats go fishing. The Casa Vieja crew is investigating ways to start using refillable water bottles on the boats. It may mean more man hours, but the end result will be a major cost savings and thousands less water bottles. The lodge can also educate the locals about the problems with plastics.

I commend Salazar and Costa for their efforts. It takes time and smarts to make a difference, but when you do, we all win. Learn more about Kick Plastic here: costadelmar.com.