Recently, the Marine Fish Conservation Network welcomed two new members to the Network Policy Council, Captain Lucas Bissett and Bill Mott. Tom Sadler, the Network’s deputy director, caught up with them to learn more about their backgrounds, their work and why they joined the Council.
This first interview is with Captain Lucas Bissett.
Tom Sadler: Welcome to the Network’s Policy Council, Lucas. It is good to have you on board.
Lucas Bissett: Thanks Tom, I’m delighted to be part of the crew.
Sadler: Tell our readers what you are doing now.
Bissett: I am the new executive director of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association. I oversee implementing the strategic plan of the trade association laid out by the board of directors and at the pleasure of our members. AFFTA’s mission is to guide the sustainable growth of the business of fly fishing.
Sadler: Tell us a little about what makes Lucas Bissett tick, what gets you up in the morning and personally drives you forward during the day?
Bissett: Fly fishing changed me fundamentally. I am the person who I am today because of the ethos change I experienced after picking up a fly rod. In my position, I can help others experience that same transformation and help our industry grow simultaneously. If that doesn’t motivate someone, I don’t know what does. I want to see fly fishing become more inclusive through education and opportunity because I believe the new participants to our sport have an opportunity to be advocates for the sport and the natural resources that we have the pleasure of experiencing while participating in it.
Sadler: We’ve known each other for a while now especially because of our work together as board Members of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association. How did you end up becoming the executive director, and what were you doing before?
Bissett: I was given the opportunity to serve on AFFTA’s board four years ago and have been an integral part of helping the association grow and develop since. When the job of executive director became available, I knew I was uniquely qualified to hit the ground running while being the visionary the industry needs to adapt to the ever changing business climate in our country. I have been a full-time guide running my own guide service for almost ten years. Ultimately, I was attracted to work for AFFTA because I saw it as an opportunity to amplify the voice of our industry, grow the business of fly fishing, and protect our resources from all the threats, manmade or otherwise.
Sadler: Give us a glimpse of the Bissett back story, you know, where you were born, grew up, went to college, that kind of thing.
Bissett: I was born in the small town of Morganza, Louisiana chasing any fish that I could cast to. Louisiana has one of the most incredible mixes of food, music, generosity, and culture found in the world. Louisiana is the sportsman’s paradise because of the prolific wildlife and naturally beautiful places. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the University of South Florida in Tampa. Florida, like Louisiana, is ripe with wildlife and sea life unparalleled in most places in this country. I was fortunate to experience a good portion of those natural resources during my college years.
Sadler: We all have memorable people in our life who have a big influence on us. Who were some of yours?
Bissett: I have been fortunate in life to have had more than one mentor. When it comes to who I am at my core as a person I have can narrow it down to three. My mother taught me the value of a dollar and insisted on a work ethic that made me the man I am today. My father taught me to interact with people in a way that sets me apart and helps me to stand out in a crowd. My grandfather taught me to put it all together and to be a firm but fair leader while surrounding myself with individuals who have skills I may not possess at the same level.
Sadler: Many of us start life or career in one direction then something happens, and we change direction. Has that happened to you?
Bissett: Fly fishing was the impetus for significant interpersonal change in my life. I grew up with the mentality that our natural resources were indelible. In my mind we as anglers and hunters could do no harm. Fly fishing and the people in it changed my way of thinking and forced me to dig deep to uncover the passion I have for the protection of and advocating for those resources.
Sadler: Let’s look ahead. When you think about the kind of work you’ve described, do you have hope or are you concerned or worried?
Bissett: When thinking of the future, I get a sense of hope when thinking about the next generations and how they interact with their environment. I am seeing a level of concern for our resources that we don’t currently experience in this country as a whole. With the next generation of stewards, I see our fisheries having a potentially bright future. I get a sense of dread when I think of the exponential threat of climate change. We are staring down the barrel of catastrophic failures, and we are the only ones who can save our planet from imploding.
Sadler: You now lead AFFTA, what are you looking forward to in this new role?
Bissett: I see nothing but potential for AFFTA moving forward with a clear cut vision to improve the organization and, in turn, help facilitate growth in our industry. I am looking forward to a day when our industry can punch even higher above our weight because we have united our voices towards saving our precious resources.
Sadler: What has been your experience with the Marine Fish Conservation Network? What was your motivation for joining the Network Policy Council? What are the opportunities you see being a member of the NPC?
Bissett: I have worked with MFCN in the past and really appreciate its desire to maintain a more moderate voice in the fight for our federal resources. Too often we find ourselves in polarizing positions, which means we have possibly alienated half of any audience. I gladly accepted being a member of the NPC because I know that my voice will count when asked to weigh in on policy that the Network is focusing on. I see an opportunity to make sure the fly fishing industry has a seat at the table when discussions arise around federal and interstate policy.
Sadler: Thanks for taking the time to chat, Lucas. I know we are excited to have your voice at the policy table.
Bissett: You are most welcome. I’m excited to get started.