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Prepare to launch

5/20/2008

DANIA BEACH, Fla. — Chris Fischer stood before about a hundred of his peers Monday night, in a hall meant to honor those he would hope to soon join.

There, in the Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum's "Greats Hall," surrounded by the records of those he called "the great explorers and anglers of the past," he made no bones about wanting to join them.

"We have a lot of work to do with our crew: To get out and fulfill our dreams and make those come true ... to prove that we are worthy to be compared with those individuals long-term, through the course of history and time," he said.

The occasion was a reception the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) hosted for Fischer, who along with his wife, Melissa, hosts "Offshore Adventures" on ESPN2. It was the night before his crew disembarked from nearby Miami Beach to begin a seven-year fishing expedition around the world aboard the Ocean, a 126-foot crabbing vessel turned mothership.

Among the guests were captains, world-record holders, conservationists and people involved at all levels with fishing media — the sort of crowd in which fish stories flow freely. Enthusiasm for the trip was high. When Fischer finished his address, someone called from the back: "I want to go!"

Fischer was introduced by Al Perkinson, vice president of marketing for Costa Del Mar, a sponsor of Fischer's. "On the face of it," Perkinson said of the journey, "it might seem illogical." A young couple in their 30s with one daughter not yet 4-years-old and another not yet four months, with a successful production company, a comfy home in Utah — why would they sink such money and time into a potentially perilous jaunt? By way of explanation, Perkinson offered a quote from Jacques Cousteau that begins: "If we were logical, the future would be bleak indeed."

Fischer emphasized that while the trip is about catching massive fish in far-flung locales to make television shows, its broader mission is to record hard data on the condition of fisheries around the world — a project he calls "the state of the world's oceans" — so future generations will better know how to whack 'em in a sustainable manner.

"There's so much out there we haven't touched yet," IGFA president Rob Kramer said in an interview. "I commend him on his foresight, to put his money where his mouth is and commit to the time. That's huge. How many of the rest of us can say, 'This is what I'm going to be doing for seven years'?"

The IGFA will lend support for the journey in part through "representatives" affiliated with the IGFA stationed in 80 countries around the globe, Kramer said. "These are people Chris will have access to wherever he goes, whether that's in Vanuatu or Venezuela," he said. "The common thing is, they all speak fishing."

Joan Vernon, president of the conservationist Billfish Foundation, said the expedition has the potential to collect data on wide-ranging schools of marlins. That in turn could "raise awareness" among people in far-flung countries about their role in managing what Vernon called "a global resource."

"It's one thing when you work with heads of state and governments, but nothing gets done there," she said. "You have to go to the grassroots, and Chris is."

As the event wound down, Fischer scooped his toddler, Sarah, into his arms and began calling for his crew and family to gather near the entrance of the museum for a group photo. He wanted a replica of a 1,560-pound marlin to serve as his backdrop.

"Let's go take a picture with that black marlin world record," he said, "... that I'm going to break."