Zebco has created an industry-wide program called Operation F.I.S.H. (Fishermen In Support of Hurricane relief) for the specific purpose of helping restore and accelerate the return of sportfishing along the Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas. It is a fundraising concept with the potential to raise a lot of money and provide ongoing benefits to the hurricane damaged coastal fisheries during the critical recovery years ahead.
Zebco has taken the program to the FishAmerica Foundation, the conservation and research arm of the American Sportfishing Association with expertise in grassroots fisheries projects, who has agreed to administer all aspects of the Operation F.I.S.H effort.
Zebco has commissioned the design of a special Operation F.I.S.H. ball cap to be used as the primary fundraising item. The attractive navy-colored caps are embroidered with a custom logo that incorporates the Operation F.I.S.H. name and the hurricane symbol. The hats will be "sold" in exchange for donations by anglers and interested individuals wanting to help with the Gulf Coast fisheries cause.
The Game Headwear company has agreed to provide the hats at cost, while Mailing Services, Inc., of Richmond, Va., has offered to assist with fulfillment services. FishAmerica will collect the monies and manage the project selection process and distribution of the funds.
The inventory of hats is to come by way of donations from the long list of organizations and industry companies who are wanting to do something to help get sportfishing back on track in the wake of the recent hurricanes. To get the project started, Zebco has already purchased and donated the first 1,000 hats for the Operation F.I.S.H. effort.
"Like so many in this industry, we felt the pain of the coastal fishing community early on as the hurricanes started rolling in," explained Bob Bagby, Zebco VP of marketing. "Fishing guides, retailers and angler friends were reporting the devastation even before the worst of Katrina had hit. Then came Rita and Wilma. The impact was as much personal to us as it was business and we wanted to do something to help. We're confident Operation F.I.S.H can make a difference to the area, but we need the help of many in the industry for it to work."
"That's why Zebco is initiating this effort and challenging every company and organization with a vested interest in fishing to purchase a quantity of Operation F.I.S.H. hats and donate them to this fundraising effort. It doesn't matter if it's more or less than what Zebco has done. Just get involved. FishAmerica has a history of knowing how and where to best spend these dollars along the Gulf Coast fisheries," he added.
Johanna Laderman, FishAmerica director, agrees. "We've worked with government agencies, conservation groups and private entities up and down the Gulf Coast for many, many years," she said. "We do know how to maximize the usage of these specially earmarked dollars and put them to work where they'll do the most good. We're excited about the Operation F.I.S.H. project and Zebco's challenge to unite the industry in helping restore an area in need."
It is important for contributors to realize that the Operation F.I.S.H. hats will have no branding other than the project name. However, participating hat donors will be able to benefit from their own publicity efforts in support of the project and through FishAmerica's announcements.
The intent is for participating companies to put an Operation F.I.S.H. link on their respective websites and promote the fundraiser in whatever other ways they can throughout their businesses. Every company involved should take pride and ownership in being part of the united effort and its worthwhile cause.
"This isn't about promotional opportunities," said Zebco's Bagby. "These hurricanes have caused a far-reaching ripple effect on everyone in this industry. Now's the time to set our competitive backbones aside and work together to get the Gulf Coast fishery up and ready for anglers and boaters again as qui