Conservation History

The International Game Fish Association was developed in 1939 as part of the American Museum of Natural History and for the past 74 years, the IGFA has taken an active role in fisheries research, management, and conservation around the world. In fact, it was one of the first organizations to encourage and facilitate information exchange between anglers and scientists. Dr. William King Gregory was head of the Departments of Ichthyology and Comparative Anatomy at the American Museum of Natural History, and said in 1943:

The motto of the IGFA, ‘For Ethical Sport and Productive Science’ may well raise the question--- what is productive science?  Ichthyology, the science of fishes, does not limit itself to the task of identifying, naming, cataloguing and preserving samples of the thousands of species in the teeming world of fishes, however gigantic and thrilling that task may be.  Nor would this science be complete even if all the desired data relating to food habits, time and space of breeding, migrations, etc., of all living species had been gathered and classified, card-catalogued, and micro-photographed and filed away in bomb-proof vaults.  For all this is only the material for productive science.  Ichthyology can only become productive when its material is being studied and analyzed in the quest for better and better answers to the enlarging problems of science as a whole.  The anglers themselves, to whom we owe a great deal of important data, are a powerful aid in keeping the science of ichthyology from becoming a dead mass of statistics.


The IGFA's early contributions to game fish research included the construction of a state-of-the-art marine laboratory by IGFA founder, Michael Lerner.  And by 1952, IGFA had formal relationships with 13 Scientific Institutions as members including:

  • Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia: Pennsylvania
  • American Museum of Natural History: New York, New York
  • Asociacion Nacional de Piscicultura y Pesca de Columbia; Bogotá, Columbia
  • Bermuda government Aquarium and Museum; Bermuda
  • Bingham Oceanographic Laboratory; Yale University, Connecticut
  • British Museum (Natural History); London, England
  • Bureau of Marine Fishes, California Division of Fish and Game; California
  • California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco; California
  • Chicago Museum of Natural History; Chicago, Illinois
  • Istituto Talassografico di Messina; Messina, Sicily
  • Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle; Paris, France
  • Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
  • United States Fish and Wildlife Service; Washington D.C.

Today, scientists are learning more and more about the world’s aquatic habitats and the fish that inhabit them. At the same time, anglers are learning more and more about pursuing and catching fish. As a result, both scientists and anglers are great repositories of ichthyologic information. However, this information is of limited value as long as scientists only talk to scientists and anglers only talk to anglers. The IGFA plays an active role in facilitating information exchange to bridge the gap between anglers and the scientific community so that both may benefit from the data developed by each group. 

One of the primary means of connecting scientists and anglers is through symposia that are specifically designed to achieve synthesis from both audiences. In September 1984 the IGFA sponsored the First World Angling Conference held in Cap d’Agde, France. This was the first conference devoted solely to recreational fisheries issues that brought together the angling and scientific community to discuss issues related to the sport. The conference was a huge success and attracted 251 registrants from 48 countries.

It also laid the groundwork for what would become the World Recreational Fishing Conference (WRFC) series, which is the only conference series of its kind for the recreational fisheries sector, both freshwater and saltwater. The conference series target groups are representatives from NGOs, management agencies, the tackle trade business, angling tourism and multidisciplinary sciences. It highlights trends, recent findings and interesting experiences across continents and within the angling community. In November, 2008 IGFA hosted the 5th WRFC at the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum. The conference attracted over 200 participants from more than 22 countries, and peer-reviewed proceedings from the conference was published in 2010. 

IGFA’s 60,000 square foot facility is a perfect venue for conferences, meetings and public workshops. In addition to the 2008 WRFC, IGFA has also hosted the International Bonefish and Tarpon Research Symposium in 2003 and 2009, and plans to host an International Billfish Symposium in 2015. Each year the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum plays host to numerous other events geared towards fisheries science and management.

Much has changed in the fishing world and in science in the last 74 years. However, there is still a strong need for more and better data and information exchanges to properly assess fish stocks. Recreational anglers and fisheries managers must continue to communicate more effectively and share information in order to develop effective management strategies. As it always has, the IGFA will continue to assist anglers, scientists, and managers to help ensure that the game fish we cherish will survive and thrive for future generations.