M3catchingfishWhen supporting conservation in the developing world, many people prefer to make handouts or writing checks to their favorite organization of merit. While there is a place for this type of giving, I also like to travel to places in need, find small businesses that are doing the right thing environmentally and support these shops with my own business. By patronizing small businesses in developing nations, you are encouraging development itself, and you get to see exactly where the money is going.

Over the last few years we have been fortunate enough to go to Central and South America in search of the big fish. One trip that sticks in my mind was a blue marlin fishing trip off the coast of Caracas, Venezuela. We were fishing in 4,500 feet of water and caught 12 trophy-sized blue marlin over the course of three days. All were tagged and released.

On another trip, my son Merrill III was backpacking from Peru to Texas and stopped in Costa Rica to go sail fishing in the pacific for two days. In one day he and a friend caught 8 sailfish, again, all tagged and released.

These were both wonderful experiences, however it brought to mind how fortunate Americans are to have amenities, services and securities that many people in other parts of the world can’t access. Supporting these fishing outfits by tagging and releasing fish is one way to encourage wildlife and nature preservation in a developing economy. It creates an economic incentive to keep the fishery healthy and discourages over fishing by local fisherman. The next time you get ready to give an easy “hand out,” I encourage you to find a way to give a “hand up.” You might just have fun in the process.

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Merrill Stewart is Founder and President of the Stewart Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham, Ala. Contact him via email.
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