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VIMS professor inducted into IGFA Hall of Fame

International Game Fish Association honors Graves

The International Game Fish Association — the global authority on recreational fishing with 22,000 individual members and 321 member clubs worldwide — has inducted John Graves of William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science into its Fishing Hall of Fame, an illustrious group that includes Zane Gray, Ernest Hemingway, Izaak Walton and Ted Williams.

The IGFA induction recognizes Graves, chancellor professor and chair of fisheries science at VIMS, as an internationally renowned expert in fish genetics with more than 30 years of experience in research and advisory service. An induction video lauds his “leadership in game fish research and unwavering commitment to conservation,” and notes “If you are an offshore angler, you can rest assured that Dr. John Graves’ research has had an impact on your fishing.”

IGFA President Rob Kramer (R) presents Dr. John Graves with a plaque that will hang in the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame in Dania Beach, Florida. © Debra Todd Photography.Rob Kramer, IGFA President, says, “John has been a leader in the field of billfish research for many years now and his work has been instrumental in the ongoing efforts to conserve game fish populations worldwide. Anglers today owe him a great deal of gratitude and we were honored to induct him into the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame.”

Graves has contributed to the saltwater angling community in numerous ways. His research with pop-up satellite tags has led to the use of circle hooks for billfish, sharply increasing the survival rate of marlin, swordfish and sailfish in the catch-and-release fishery. His genetic studies of billfish have allowed federal fisheries officials to distinguish Pacific blue marlin from illegally sold Atlantic blue marlin.

Graves has also been the tournament scientist for the entire 25-year history of the Mid-Atlantic $500,000 — one of the top billfishing competitions in the world — and produces an annual report for participants that highlights major changes in billfish management and recent scientific discoveries. By analyzing tissue samples collected during the event, Graves and colleagues in his Fisheries Genetics Lab have also re-ordered the billfish family tree, and provided encouraging signs of a rebound in the Atlantic population of white marlin.

On his induction, Graves says, “I think it’s a tribute to all fisheries scientists and fisheries managers that the IGFA Hall of Fame Selection Committee recognized contributions in these areas. I feel quite humbled to be included with my five fellow inductees, as well as previous inductees to the Hall of Fame, each of whom has had a profound impact on recreational fishing.”

John Wells, VIMS dean and director, adds, “John’s induction is a testament to his many years of leadership in the offshore fishing community and a shining example of the international scope and stature of research at VIMS. I can think of no one more deserving of this prestigious honor.”

In addition to benefitting anglers directly, Graves’ research has enriched the scientific literature on which fisheries conservation and management depends. He has authored more than 100 peer-reviewed publications — many dealing with recreational and commercially important fish species — in leading scientific journals such as Fishery Bulletin, ICES Journal of Marine Science, Molecular Ecology and Science.

Graves has also played a key role in advising policymakers, serving as chair of the U.S. delegation to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) for the past 22 years and as a member of the National Marine Fisheries Service’s advisory panels for Billfish and Highly Migratory Species. He has also served on the Department of Commerce’s Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee, the nation’s top advisory body for management of commercial and recreational fisheries in U.S. waters.

VIMS professor John Graves with a tagged cobia.

In addition to his induction into the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame, Graves’ research and teaching accomplishments have been recognized with a number of other prestigious honors, including W&M’s Thomas Ashley Graves, Jr. Award (2016), Sport Fishing magazine's "Making a Difference" Award (2011), the IGFA’s Individual Conservation Award (2007), NOAA Fisheries Service Special Recognition Award (2006), an Outstanding Facult

This year’s other inductees into the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame are Tim Choate, an ardent angler, charter fishing operator, and conservationist; Jerry and Deborah Dunaway, pioneers in big-game sport fishing; Chico Fernandez, a leader in the saltwater fly-fishing community for decades; and Orri Vigfusson, chair and founder of the North Atlantic Salmon Fund.y Award from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (2004) and W&M’s Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award 


The IGFA established its Fishing Hall of Fame in 1998 to recognize extraordinary achievements by anglers, captains, scientists, conservationists, writers, and fishing industry leaders. This year’s class brings the total number of honorees to 110. Inductees are welcomed to the Hall during a ceremony in October of each year. Along with a biographical video, each Hall of Fame member is recognized with a plaque at the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame in Dania Beach, Florida. Additional information, documents, and photographs of Hall of Fame members are archived in the IGFA’s E. K. Harry Library.