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B a h a m a s

Flats Fishing

Guide Certification WorkshoP

Convened by: The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation


Facilitated by: The Bahamian Flats Fishing Alliance
Held at: Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort, Nassau, Bahamas on October 16, 2009

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TA B L E O F C O N T ENT S
B A C K G R O U N D :! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! 3

S T R AT E G Y:! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! 4

AGENDA: ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! 5

C O M P O N E N T S O F A C E R T I F I C AT I O N P R O G R A M :! ! ! 6
A N G L I N G S K I L L S! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! 7

C O N S E R V A T I O N E X P E R T I S E! ! ! ! ! ! ! 8

B U S I N E S S T O O L S! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! 10

B A H A M I A N S T U D I E S! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! 11

I M P L E M E N TAT I O N O F C E R T I F I C AT I O N :! ! ! ! ! 12
ECONOMICS AND SCIENCE: ! ! ! ! ! ! ! 13

G E N E R A L R E C O M M E N D AT I O N S :! ! ! ! ! ! 14

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B A CK G R O U N D
The first iteration of a Certification Program for Bahamian flats fishing guides was developed over a
decade ago, and a number of individuals participated in that program and were certified as
professional guides. Over recent years, however, momentum for that program has waned and there
became an increasing realization that e!orts were needed to modernize the program to make it
more relevant to today’s flats fishing community. Early on in the process of updating this program,
it was recognized that it would be important to obtain input from the professional guide
community into what components were needed to ensure that a high quality program was
developed. To accomplish that task, the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation’s Department of
Sustainable Tourism, under the direction of Earlston McPhee and Benjamin Pratt, and with
assistance from The Bahamian Flats Fishing Alliance, organized a workshop designed to bring
interested stakeholders (e.g., guides, lodge owners, conservation organizations, etc.) together for
discussion and input. Announcements for the meeting were distributed throughout The Bahamas
via the network of Tourism o"ces throughout Nassau and the Family Islands. This workshop was
held at the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort in Nassau, Bahamas. The meeting was facilitated by a
team of scientists from The Bahamian Flats Fishing Alliance, which is a joint e!ort of the Bahamas
National Trust, the Bonefish Tarpon Trust, and the Fisheries Conservation Foundation.

The Bahamas National Trust (www.bnt.bs), established by an Act


of Parliament in 1959, is mandated with the conservation of
natural and historic resources of The Bahamas. The BNT is the
only known non-governmental organization in the world with the
mandate to manage a country's entire national park system.

The Bonefish and Tarpon Trust (www.tarbone.org), founded in


1998, is a membership-based organization consisting of
recreational anglers, guides, and marine industry leaders
dedicated to increasing global e!orts to conserve bonefish,
tarpon, permit, and other flats species.

The Fisheries Conservation Foundation (www.fishconserve.org),


founded in 2004, works to ensure that objective, peer-reviewed
scientific information about fisheries and aquatic resources
reaches policy-makers and the public, so that decisions
concerning our aquatic resources are logical, informed, and based
on the principles of sustainability.

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STR AT EG Y
It was determined that to maximize both attendance and input, the workshop would offer participants
the following opportunities:
1. Participate in revising The Bahamian Guide Certification Program,
2. Provide input on the best ways to implement such a program,
3. Identify flats conservation needs for The Bahamas and opportunities to address them,
4. Get updates on a variety of important scientific and economic projects.

Furthermore, to accomplish the above and to increase the effectiveness of the group, it was decided to
use a combination of breakout groups and group summary/discussion sessions, along with some
general fact-finding discussions mixed with formal presentations of the scientific and economic studies.

After a general welcome of the participants and introductions to the day’s events by Benjamin Pratt of
Tourism, Earlston McPhee introduced the plenary speaker, The Honorable Lawrence Cartwright, Minister
of Agriculture and Marine Resources, who opened the workshop by reiterating the need for coordination
among all stakeholders in the conservation arena and emphasizing the key role that flats fishing guides
play in the Bahamian economy and conservation movement. He inspired the entire group to put in effort
into making the workshop a success. At that point, Dr. David Philipp, Chair of the Facilitation Team,
reviewed the agenda, outlined the planned activities, and explained the rules for the workshop.

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AGE N DA
9:00! Welcome and Introduction (Benjamin Pratt)
9:05! Introduction of Minister (Earlston McPhee)
9:10! The Hon. Lawrence Cartwright, Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources
9:20! Introduction of Facilitation Team (David Philipp)
9:25! Guide Certification Program Objectives (David Philipp)
9:35! Small Group Sessions
10:45! Small Group Reports
11:50! Break for Lunch
Noon:! Lunch: Presentation by Dr. Tony Fedler on the Economic Value of Flats Fishing in the Bahamas
*Senator The Honorable Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, Minister of Tourism and Aviation, in attendance

1:20! Implementation of Certification Program & Future Opportunities (Entire Group)


2:10! Next Steps for Certification Program Development (Entire Group)
2:20! Spawning Research on Eleuthera & Andros (Vanessa Haley)
2:40! Best Handling Practices Research (Andy Danylchuk)
3:00! Adjourn

The facilitation team, which was organized bu the Bahamian Flats Fishing Alliance, consisted of
scientists and educators well versed in bonefishing and the ecology of Bahamian flats ecosystems:

Dr. David P. Philipp (Executive Director of the Fisheries Conservation Foundation)


Dr. Aaron Adams (Executive Director of Bonefish & Tarpon Trust)
Ms Vanessa Haley (Bahamas National Trust)
Dr. Andy Danylchuk (University of Massachusetts)
Mr. Je!rey Koppelman (Chair, FCF Advisory Council)
Mr. Je!rey Stein (University of Illinois)
Mr. Chris Haak (University of Massachusetts)
Dr. Bridgette Rolle (Ministry of Tourism)
Dr. Tony Fedler (Fedler and Associates)
Ms Catherine Booker (Community Conch)

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COMPONENTS OF A CERTIFICATION PROGRAM

Four general discussion topics were established to ensure coverage of all issues and components
associated with the potential content of a Flats Fishing Guide Certification Program:

I. Angling Skills
II. Conservation Expertise
III. Business Tools
IV. Bahamian Studies

From there, participants divided into four smaller breakout groups by self-selecting which of the four
topical discussions they wished to join. Two members of the facilitation team led and recorded the
breakout discussions.

After 1.5 hours, the groups came back together in a singe plenary session in which each group presented
their findings/recommendations, and the entire group of participants added to that report as needed. In
this way, every participant was able to have input on all aspects of each discussion topic.

The following are summary recommendations from the workshop for each of the four topics covered in
the breakout groups. When a duplicate recommendation occurred across topic groups, it was assigned to
the most appropriate group.

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COMPONENTS OF A CERTIFICATION PROGRAM

I. ANGLING SKILLS

This group identified what it felt were the most important skills and abilities for all guides to have, and what
knowledge they needed to possess. The following items were identified as essential for the educational
curriculum for the certification program.
# Basic knots and how to tie them — focusing on those important for flyfishing
# Di!erent components of fishing equipment and how to check/maintain them
# Basic boat handling techniques, including running outboards and polling/positioning ski!s
# Techniques for finding fish, including direct sighting and reading the water
# Ability to assess standard fish weights
# Identifying important flies, including knowing how they are tied
# Ability to share technical knowledge with anglers and other guides
# Ability to use social skills to deal with di"cult clients in an amiable way

In addition, there were some advanced skills that were identified as desirable:
# Fly tying expertise
# Ability to teach anglers how to improve their casting techniques
# Ability to teach anglers how to improve their methods for working the fly
# Ability to teach anglers how to improve their methods for playing/landing fish

There were two further recommendations coming from this breakout group:
1. Although certain knowledge can be taught and assessed in a classroom, other skills (e.g., casting,
hooking, and landing skills, fish finding methods, and boat handling techniques) should be obtained
through training received from senior guides and assessed (for certification) by observations in the field
by senior guides/anglers. It was emphasized that to become proficient in the many skills associated with
guiding, individuals need to put in substantial time on the job; this level of expertise cannot be gained
from a 3–5 day course. True novices who want to get started in the business could require substantial
training, even including an apprenticeship.

2. Basic skills associated with angling and guiding


should start to be taught in the Bahamian public
school system, with age-appropriate material being
introduced through the curricula associated with
various grade levels. This action will ensure that
younger generations of Bahamians gain the
knowledge learned by the flats fishing professional
community over the years. It was acknowledged,
however, that this would require a long-term
commitment from the educational system.

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COMPONENTS OF A CERTIFICATION PROGRAM

II. CONSERVATION EXPERTISE

The group identified the following aspects of both an educational curriculum and an assessment
component of the certification program:

$ Basic biology of the bonefish, tarpon, and permit


%Life history
%Spawning behaviors and locations
%Food habits
%Age and growth information
$ General ecology of the flats ecosystem
%Identification of common plants and animals
%Predators and prey on the flats
$ Best handling practices for catch-and-release, including how to:
%Minimize landing time
%Reduce air exposure
%Revive a fish that has lost equilibrium
%Protect a fish from predators
$ The di!erent sources of flats habitat destruction and how to explain them to clients
%Pollution — including improper garbage and chemical disposal methods
%Dredging — both in the coastal mangrove forests and in deeper patch reef areas
%Coastal construction for private dwellings and resorts
%Flow restriction of creeks that prevent fish passage up tidal creek systems
$ Environmentally sound “Green” behavior/practices — emphasize/practice recycling
%Preventing boat chemical spills (e.g., gas, oil, transmission fluid, etc.)
%Correct disposal of fishing line and lures
%Correct disposal of personal garbage, including plastic, cans, bottles
$ Fishing Regulations
%Size and bag limits for target species (bonefish, tarpon, and permit)
%Seasonal regulations of all species of fin fish and shellfish
% Ban on netting in flats habitats because it targets bonefish and small tarpon%
% Prevention of netting in other areas because it results in bycatch of bonefish%
%Special regulations associated with Marine Protected Areas
$ Educate clients about conservation activities and needs in The Bahamas
%How to “correct bad behavior” of clients in an acceptable way
%How to educate clients on key conservation issues within The Bahamas

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COMPONENTS OF A CERTIFICATION PROGRAM

II. CONSERVATION EXPERTISE (continued)

In addition, this group provided a variety of perspectives on how to implement a certification program in
a way that is acceptable to all by taking into account the following points:

# Guides who have been in the business for a lengthy period of time (e.g., 20, 30+ years) need to
be identified on each island and grandfathered into certification.
# It needs to be recognized that experienced guides will need less training than newer guides, who
would need much less training than novices.
# Program flexibility needs to be provided so that employment opportunities for a guide attending
certification activities are impacted minimally.
# A standard full training course could last five days, but experienced guides may need a more
streamlined program — perhaps even an on-line program.
# For novices interested in learning how to become a guide, an apprentice/mentor program needs
to be developed across the various family islands.
# Training programs should start in high school (or before) as part of the public school curriculum.
# There should be a mechanism developed for continuing education, including technology transfer
among guides, biologists, and government.

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COMPONENTS OF A CERTIFICATION PROGRAM

III. BUSINESS TOOLS

The group identified a number of specific needs for certification in this area, organized into two major classes:
Establish a formal set of high service standards requiring:
• Accepted level of quality, appearance, safety, etc. for
required equipment
Managed by the National
• Participation in the Bahamahost program Bahamahost Association,
the Bahamahost program
• First Aid and CPR training promotes professionalism,
pride and education in
• Liability insurance hospitality fields to ensure
• Business license a proper welcome to
visitors. The training familiarizes all
• Captain’s license participants with correct and accurate
information on the country’s history,
• Boat inspection, including viable communication geography, civics, economics, culture,
device(s) flora, fauna and places of interest.
Additional emphasis is placed on
• Small motor maintenance skills attitudinal training, teamwork and
cooperation.
• High level of professionalism in business (code of ethics)

Develop skills, provide training, and o!er resources that promote high quality business operations, including:
• E!ective communication strategies via website, email, and marketing
• Knowledge of the industry and its organization
• Financial management, including how to obtain access to capital
• Ability to create a business plan

• Time management skills


• Marketing skills
• Personal image and branding
• Knowledge on how to access and use business resources
• Knowledge on duty-free opportunities

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COMPONENTS OF A CERTIFICATION PROGRAM

IV. BAHAMIAN STUDIES

It was recognized that the role of Bahamian flats fishing guides transcended the
act of just putting anglers on fish and helping anglers catch them. They are also
ambassadors of The Bahamas, and as such, need a knowledge set that goes
above and beyond angling skills. Specifically, guides need to have a working
knowledge of the following topics as they relate to The Bahamas:

1. Bahamian history
2. History of fishing in general, but also specifics on flyfishing the flats of
The Bahamas
3. Bahamian government (local and national structure — political parties and o"cials)
4. Economics — local, national, and international; revenue sources for government

5. Bahamian culture, including things specific to their home island (e.g., religion, food, music, drinks)
6. Climate, especially as it pertains to fishing — seasonal e!ects, stress on fish, etc.
7. Bahamian geography and geology
8. Flora and fauna of the islands and the flats specifically
9. Information regarding the tourist industry as a whole

Bottom Line: Guides should develop and promote a Bahamian “brand” — so that anglers across the globe
consider The Bahamas as the first choice for a bonefishing trip anywhere in the world.

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IMPLEMENTATION OF CERTIFICATION
During the Breakout Group sessions, each group also developed the following list of objectives for any
certification process that would be developed within The Bahamas. That is, a high quality and effective
certification program would:
# Establish a high service standard for certified guides in The Bahamas.
# Recognize those guides that have met some minimum set of skills.
# Provide educational resources for current guides.
# Provide a training mechanism for future guides.
# Promote The Bahamas as a premier flats fishing destination.
# Serve as an organizational focus for flats conservation action.

It was recognized that a successful certification program would:


! Require full support by the guides themselves, along with the recognition that a well-run business
benefits everyone in the industry and The Bahamas as a whole.
! Require strong partnership and support of the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation through active
participation in the development, implementation, and long-range marketing and promotion of the
Certification Program.
! Serve as a strong marketing tool to attract additional and more substantive business from abroad.
! Demonstrate that effective promotion of certified guide services in The Bahamas will generate increased
revenue to the industry.

A general discussion was had regarding implementation concerns, reiterating many of the points brought up
earlier within the individual breakout group sessions. They are summarized below:
• Although certain knowledge can be taught and assessed in a classroom, other skills (e.g., casting,
hooking, and landing skills; fish finding methods; and boat handling techniques) should be obtained
through training received from senior guides and assessed (for certification) by observations in the field by
senior guides/anglers.
• Basic skills associated with angling and guiding should be taught in the Bahamian public school system,
with age-appropriate material being introduced through the curricula associated with various grade levels.
This will ensure that younger generations of Bahamians gain the knowledge learned by the flats fishing
industry over many years, as well as conservation training.
• Guides who have been in the business for some lengthy period of time (e.g., 20, 30+ years) need to be
identified on each island and grandfathered into certification.
• It needs to be recognized that some senior guides will need less training than some more junior ones, who
would need much less training than some novices. Program flexibility needs to be provided so that
employment opportunities are impacted minimally
• A standard full training course could last five days, but senior guides may need a more streamlined
program – perhaps even an on-line program
• For untrained persons interested in learning how to become a guide, an apprentice/mentor program needs
to be developed across the various family islands.
• Training programs should start in high school (or before) as part of the public school curriculum.
• There should be a mechanism developed for continuing education, technology transfer among guides,
biologists, and government, perhaps on each of the main family islands.
• Plans for a re-certification process should be developed soon as well — with a cycle of about five years.

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ECONOMICS AND SCIENCE: THE ROAD TO CONSERVATION

There were also three formal presentations during the program:


1. An update on a project funded by the Bahamian Flats Fishing Alliance report on “The Economic
Impact of Flats Fishing to the Bahamian Economy”, presented by Dr. Tony Fedler from Fedler and
Associates, Gainesville, FL. This presentation was attended by Senator The Hon. Vincent
Vanderpool-Wallace, Minister of Tourism and Aviation, who also delivered some well-spoken words
of encouragement to the group.
2. An update on the Best Handling Practices for Catch-and-Release Angling for Bonefish, presented by
Dr. Andy Danylchuk from the University of Massachusetts – Amherst.
3. A summary of two projects studying the Spawning Dynamics of Bonefish – at Cape Eleuthera and in
Andros, presented by Ms. Vanessa Haley from the BNT.
There was a great deal of interest in these presentations, as evidenced by the tremendous amount of
questions and discussion generated by each of them.

Finally, there was a lengthy plenary discussion concerning conservation needs, which reintroduced many
issues brought up within the breakout groups. This discussion, concerning how to move forward with
regard to addressing those conservation needs, provided the following suggestions:

! There needs to be a forum within which guides, anglers, lodge owners, conservation groups, and
other interested parties can get together to discuss conservation problems in an e!ort to develop
real solutions to them and to identify how these solutions can be implemented. Establishing a
grassroots coalition of stakeholders was suggested as the best possible mechanism.

! There is a continuing need for information exchange among guides, lodge owners, anglers,
scientists and policy makers similar to the scientific presentations and the discussion that
centered around identifying the conservation challenges in The Bahamas. There was consensus
agreement that a science/angling/conservation symposium focusing on bonefish in The Bahamas
should be held in Nassau during the 2010 o!season.

The Bahamian Flats Fishing Alliance (BFFA) has already begun steps to implement both recommendations.

The Nature Conservancy provided over 300 copies of three of their excellent educational posters highlighting the life
cycle of the bonefish, tarpon, and land crab for distribution to the workshop participants to take back to their home
islands for educational outreach to the local communities. A Guide Certification Program should take advantage of
the array of NGOs interested in helping such a program take shape.

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GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS

Next steps for the Bahamian Guide Certification Program recommended by the
BFFA Facilitation Team:

1. Contract with outside person or group (intimately familiar with flyfishing for bonefish,
guiding and lodge activity, and bonefish biology) to finish editing the written certification
curriculum documents.
2. Use that set of documents to develop 1-, 3-, and 5-day programS for certification training to
accommodate individuals with different experience levels.
3. Develop a system for delivery of the curriculum to guides throughout the family islands.
4. Develop methods for assessing candidate guides for certification, including written (or oral)
testing on some aspects, as well as field assessment by senior anglers/guides for certain skill
sets.
5. Propose a mechanism for establishing an apprentice/mentor program for recruiting and
developing young people into the guiding profession.
6. Propose a mechanism for developing age-specific curricula that provides an education/
training program for budding guides within the Bahamian public school system.
7. Develop a marketing strategy that promotes the Bahamian Guide Certification Program as a
worthy activity within The Bahamas.
8. Develop a marketing strategy that would provide the international angling community a
reason for choosing The Bahamas as a fishing destination over other possible places around
the world.

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