The International Game Fish Association (IGFA) announced the introduction of a new program which they expect will benefit offshore fishing tournaments.  IGFA will start training experienced anglers, captains and crews to become official IGFA certified observers aboard tournament boats. According to Mike Leech, President of IGFA, the new program will benefit tournaments by eliminating or reducing rule disputes that sometimes arise.  Certified observers can often prevent inadvertent rule infractions before they occur.  Some big money tournaments have suffered from a lack of trained observers, or a source from which to draw experienced offshore fishermen to act as observers.  The first training session for observers will take place at the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum in Dania Beach, Florida on Wednesday, October 30th, the day prior to the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.

The observer program was originally created by Bill Gooch of the Virginia Beach Red, White and Blue Tournament.  The full day training course includes a manual and presentations by several experienced instructors.  Potential IGFA observers are required to take a test at the conclusion of the course.

Several tournaments have already committed to using IGFA observers on participating boats including the U.S. Virgin Islands Open Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament (known as the “Boy Scout” Tournament); the La Guaira Venezuela Shoot Out; and the Virginia Beach Red, White and Blue Tournament.  More tournaments are expected to use IGFA observers as the program expands.  IGFA currently recognizes 87 offshore tournaments in 27 countries and territories and 11 states as qualifying events for their Rolex/IGFA Offshore Championship which takes place May 11-17, 2003 in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

IGFA is a non-profit conservation and record keeping organization with members in over 120 countries and territories.  Their 60,000 square foot Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum is open to the public seven days a week in Dania Beach, Florida.

For further information contact IGFA at 300 Gulf Stream Way, Dania Beach, Florida 33004, phone: (954) 927-2628, fax:  (954) 924-4299, e-mail: Lwilson@igfa.org.