I attended the 2020 Manatee County Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) banquet at the Manatee County Convention Center in Palmetto on Feb. 27. That night, close to 1,000 anglers and conservationists were in attendance to show their support for one of the CCA’s largest and most active chapters.
It was great to see the commitment local sportsmen have for not only the fish that swim Florida’s salt waters but the habitat that supports them. The fact that this organization had its beginnings right here on Anna Maria Island made the experience all the more satisfying.
The CCA is a non-profit organization with 17 coastal state chapters spanning the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic seaboard and the Pacific Northwest. CCA had its beginnings in 1977 after commercial overfishing along the Texas coast decimated redfish and speckled trout populations.
In response, 14 concerned recreational anglers created the Gulf Coast Conservation Association (GCCA) to combat overfishing. The stewardship started with a Save the Redfish campaign, and by 1985, chapters had formed along the Gulf Coast. That year I joined Captain Scott Moore, Cindy McCartney, Captain Jim O’Neill, Pete Turner, Mac Smith and other concerned anglers to form the Manatee Chapter of the then Florida Conservation Association (FCA), which became the state’s fifth chapter. The timing was auspicious as GCCA organizer Bruce Cartwright was in Florida organizing state chapters and helped guide us in absorbing and disseminating the group’s message.
In 1986, FCA successfully intervened in lawsuits filed by commercial interests opposing Spanish mackerel recovery plans establishing the FCA as a force for positive change that would make huge strides toward protecting and enhancing coastal fisheries.
In 1987, the CCA was also successful in stopping purse-seining of spawning redfish in the Gulf of Mexico in response to the “blackened redfish” craze. That year the FCA merged with the Everglades Protection Association and joined with CCA in efforts to bring about a management plan to protect billfish from longline fishing vessels.
In 1988, the FCA won a four-year battle to achieve gamefish status for Florida’s depleted redfish stocks. Redfish became the first species since 1957 to be removed from Florida’s market. That same year, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce signed an FCA-supported management plan for billfish, marking the first time federal authorities have declared a gamefish in federal water.
By the early 90s, the mid-Atlantic region and New England all had active chapters. Washington and Oregon chapters were formed in 2007. The CCA has participated in virtually every national marine fishery debate since 1984. In the federal court system, CCA’s legal defense fund has been used to defend net bans, fight for the implementation of bycatch reduction devices, support pro-fisheries legislation and battle arbitrary no-fishing zones.
Now in the 21st century, the CCA network is engaged in hundreds of local, state and national projects supporting conservation efforts. The CCA has been a strong supporter of Sarasota Bay Watch’s clam restoration project and donated at the recent Scallopalooza Fundraiser to increase the impact of their “A Million Clams in 2020” initiative. CCA funding has initiated scientific studies, funded marine-science scholarships, built artificial reefs, created finfish hatcheries, supported hydrologic and contaminant studies, monitored freshwater inflows, supported local marine law enforcement and much more.
Through broad-based recreational angler support, a strong legal and legislative presence, decades of experience and an unwavering vision for the future of U.S. and global marine resources, the CCA battles for the sustainable health of our coastal fisheries and for recreational anglers’ interests. You can support the Coastal Conservation Association’s mission; join the Manatee Chapter.