Nation's 1st Education Program Launches for Recreational Fishing Industry along Alabama's Gulf Coast

GULF SHORES AND ORANGE BEACH, ALA. – Charter captains and deckhands along Alabama’s Gulf Coast will have another resource as they prepare for spring fishing trips. The Certified Fisher Invested in Sustainable Harvests (CFISH) program will provide captains with a unique training opportunity, the first of its kind in the nation.

“We are excited to bring this education opportunity to our local fleet and preserve the cultural integrity of our family businesses,” said Joanne McDonough of the Nature Tourism Initiative, which is overseeing this training program. “While there are variations of this program in other countries, CFISH is the first program to be offered in the United States, especially at the comprehensive level of our course that enhances, educates and supports approximately 100 boats in the local charter fleet.”

After the success of the Coastal Nature Guide Program, the Orange Beach Fishing Association approached McDonough with a request for a similar program tailored for charter vessels and the initiative to develop a version that would take the fishing charter experience to the next level was created. This pilot program was prepared and ready to launch in April 2010 until the Deepwater Horizon explosion occurred.

“We decided that the timing was just not right and have used the additional time to tweak the program,” McDonough said. “The oil spill affected everyone in our fishing community, and CFISH provides up-to-date information. We are very pleased to have such a timely curriculum.”

This day-long certification process includes hands-on training during which participants will: gain a working knowledge of the ecology of the Gulf of Mexico and vital fisheries grounds, review sustainable fishing practices, discuss applicable resource laws and regulations, review and follow a code of ethics, learn how to promote good stewardship practices, become familiar with responsible advertising and learn how to conduct an educational briefing before the start of a fishing charter.

The founding program sponsors of the program are the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, Auburn University Marine Extension & Research Center, Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources/Marine Resources Division, Dauphin Island Sea Lab, the Orange Beach Fishing Association, and Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism (CVB).

“As an avid fisherman and a tourism professional, fishing plays a key role in our guests’ vacation experience, and we are honored to support this ground-breaking program,” said Herb Malone, president/CEO of the CVB. “Our local captains have been through a lot, and this training will help everyone secure a bright future.”

The first CFISH course is set for Tuesday, February 15 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. Registration is required. The cost to participate is $75.00 per person, and payment will be collected during the February 15th course. Please make checks payable to Auburn University.

Also, a limited number of scholarships are available from Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism. Winners will be notified on Monday, February 9.

Seating in this training program is limited, and reservations are required. Individuals wanting to learn more about CFISH, reserve a seat or apply for a scholarship should contact McDonough at or 251-974-4634.

Transportation will be provided on February 15th from the Orange Beach Recreation Center (4849 Wilson Boulevard). Individuals wishing to ride the bus are instructed to arrive at 6:45 a.m., and park at the tennis courts. The bus will depart at 7 a.m.

Media Contacts:
Kim Chapman
Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism
251-974-4625 (direct)
251-752-8448 (cell)

About the Nature Tourism Initiative:
In 2007, Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism (formerly known as the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau), the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium and the Auburn University Marine Extension and Research Center joined forces to oversee the development of the Nature Tourism Initiative. This project is designed to evaluate the nature-based businesses in coastal Alabama (Baldwin and Mobile) and coastal Mississippi (Hancock, Harrison and Jackson) counties and provide resources to meet their needs. Charged with this mission, Joanne McDonough’s task is two-fold: (1) to work with local businesses and communities to provide a quality nature experience for the guests (2) while also encouraging good stewardship and sustainability of the area’s natural resources. Current partners include the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism and the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration. For more information, visit: