The award is named in honor of the late John Rybovich, a pioneer in billfish conservation and sportfishing vessel design.
Captain Ernie Foster of Hatteras, North Carolina, grew up on boats fishing in the family’s charter business, the Albatross Fleet. His father, Captain Ernal Foster, one might say launched charter fishing in the region in 1937 when he began charging to take anglers fishing; others laughed. In the early 1950s when his boat landed a 451-pound blue marlin, Dare County’s first public relations specialist was present and took photos. When those photos spread worldwide, Hatteras was on the map as a hot spot for offshore fishing.
Later in the decade, Foster’s brother had a couple on board who reeled in a giant blue marlin and once it reached the boat, requested the fish be released, which he did. This news generated the term “catch-and-release” fishing. Today, Foster runs the Albatross III, while managing the Albatross Fleet and its 250 charters a year.
Having witnessed significant changes in fishing, in government regulations and changes in the abundance of many fish species, Foster finds it necessary to take an active role with fisheries management issues. And, it is when some of those situations pit commercial fishing and recreational fishing interests against one another, that he most likely finds his experiences as a teacher and counselor the most useful. Foster views his community of Hatteras as a “fishing community” first, for each person there depends on fishing either directly or indirectly — a way of life Foster continues.
One of the TBF Board members, Captain Fin Gaddy of Manteo, was on hand for Ernie to accept his lifetime achievement award and be part of the festivities. Gaddy nominated Foster for this award. Back in 2007, Captain Ernie Foster and another Hatteras captain, Rom Whitaker, launched the North Carolina Watermen United organization to help protect the rights of both commercial and recreational fishermen in North Carolina. The organization has grown and expanded through the last 9 years to be a force for fishing rights throughout coastal North Carolina.
In addition, Foster launched the North Carolina Watermen Foundation in 2014 to help educate people on the importance of the fishing industry in the state and the importance of having access to fresh, North Carolina seafood throughout our state. His non-profit helps to provide programming at Hatteras Island’s yearly Day at the Docks event each September.