Paul Shafland, director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Exotic Fisheries Lab, captured this year’s “Pass It On” Award.
The award was given by the Florida Outdoor Writers Association (FOWA) and Bass Pro Shops.
He bagged the honor at FOWA’s annual conference Sept. 13.
The “Pass It On” Award is an achievement award created by Bass Pro Shops to recognize individuals who have gone the extra mile or devoted their lives to introduce others to the joys of the outdoors.
“Recognition by Florida's premier professional outdoor writers makes this especially meaningful,” Shafland said. “They are my professional peers, and that makes this award a high honor.”
Shafland began his devotion to the outdoors 34 years ago when he started working as a biologist at the then-Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, now FWC.
“I’ve always been interested in fishing, and that developed into a strong professional desire to understand and help manage Florida’s native and nonnative fisheries.”
Shafland said he is particularly passionate about enhancing Florida’s freshwater fisheries, especially the urban-based butterfly peacock bass fishery.
During his career at FWC, his most notable contribution has been introduction of butterfly peacock bass in South Florida waters. In 1984, in an effort to fight an exploding harmful nonnative fish population, Shafland and his team got approval to introduce the bass. While the butterfly peacock bass is a nonnative species, it was released in South Florida only after extensive research determined there would be no ill effects on native fish populations. The plan was to use the species to prey on undesirable nonnatives and produce desirable fishing opportunities. It is the only nonnative fish legally and intentionally released by the FWC.
In the 24 years since the release of the butterfly peacock bass, exotic fish populations in South Florida have declined, and the butterfly peacock bass is one of the most popular sport fish for freshwater anglers. Anglers spend millions of dollars annually to catch this fish.
“I appreciate everyone -- especially the thousands of anglers, young and old -- who have made Florida’s urban-based butterfly peacock fishery the success it is,” Shafland said.