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OAK BLUFFS MONSTER SHARK TOURNAMENT 2012
OAK BLUFFS MONSTER SHARK TOURNAMENT 2012
The 26th Annual Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament, organised by the Boston Big Game Fishing Club was held again this year (July 19th - 21st 2012) on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, New England, USA.
A team of Earthrace Conservation volunteers who last year traveled to the Faroe Islands to engage with locals taking part in the annual grindagrap (resulting in the setting up of the first ever Faroes marine conservation chapter dedicated to stopping the grind), reconvened this Summer on Martha's Vineyard during the period that the Monster Shark Tournament took place. A full report is available here http://www.earthraceconservation.org/blog/circus-display-sharks-politics...
They allied with around 150 local people opposed to the shark tournament, and collected signatures for a petition (see below) that will be sent to all local and national politicians with a vested interest, as well as sponsors and organisers including Boston Big Game and Fishing, Rod and Reel, and the Boston Yacht Club.
As well as being able to observe the tournament in real time and record the events of each day, having the Earthrace team on Martha's Vineyard enabled us to create more awareness of the ecological impact that this ‘sport’ fishing has on the shark and the oceanic environment, while exposing the illegal behind the scenes betting on sharks that occurs at this tournament.
Whilst some peaceful discussions were held between the team with participants, local people and visitors to the tournament, the team was met with extreme rudeness and at times, aggression, from the tournament organisers.
More recently, it was reported (10 October) that shark tournament critics, led by Corinne de Langavant of Oak Bluffs, lost a ballot referendum request which would have asked voters if they wanted the town to require the annual Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament to be a "catch and release" event. Due to having too few signatories from the local population for the time being, the request was however, supported verbally by two selectmen on the committee, Gail Barmakian and Chairman, Kathy Burton.
"The question in my mind is not whether I agree or disagree, but whether we're going to allow this on the ballot," selectman Gail Barmakian said. "I never think it hurts to see what people believe on a ballot question, as opposed to town meeting. It's non-binding: what are we afraid of?" Ms. Burton said she opposed the weigh-in spectacle but feared setting a precedent, whilst Ms. Barmakian made a motion to accept the petition. Her motion received no second.
Since the team returned, and in a big part we hope, thanks to their efforts in raising awareness while they were there, as of April 2013, not only have the residents on Martha's Vineyard voted to make any future tournaments 'catch and release only'. Voters approved a non-binding resolution aimed at the annual Monster Shark Tournament that would require all shark tournaments to be catch-and-release events by a vote of 64 to 50. Rumours abound that tournament organiser, is giving up and moving out. It's likely any future tournaments will take place elsewhere. http://www.mvtimes.com/2013/04/09/shark-referendum-
The predominant species that were caught at the tournament were the shortfin Mako, Porbeagle and Thresher sharks - all of which are listed as vulnerable to extinction according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature:
Mako – Isurus oxyrinchus http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/39341/0
Porbeagle – Lamna nasus http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/11200/0
Thresher – Alopias vulpinus http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/39339/0
The tournament does have a record of releasing many of the sharks that are caught. However, whilst the tournament also has a minimum weight for each species of shark caught with no points awarded for anything under the respective weights, this in no way precludes anglers from landing underweight sharks - dead - which are then 'disposed of' by being 'processed' with edible parts returned to the 'owners'.
The organisers seem equally proud of the fact that 'Even the non-edible portions of the shark are converted into organic fertilizer'. They further inform anyone interested that 'Thresher, mako and porbeagle shark is similar to swordfish in texture and taste when grilled'.
Sharks are the keystone species for the oceans. They are more important alive than dead. Sharks are essential to the health of our oceans. As apex predators, sharks maintain a critical balance in the ocean. When sharks are eliminated, disastrous effects can happen further down the food chain, including the collapse of commercial fisheries and degradation of coral reefs. Ecosystems with healthy shark populations have higher numbers of fish.
A third of shark species are threatened with extinction. Some populations have plummeted by over 90%. Sharks cannot easily recover from overfishing because they reproduce slowly, taking years to mature and producing few offspring.
This shark tournament is clearly an ecological irresponsible act.
Together, we've helped make The Vineyard a shark kill free harbor, and urge these fishermen to catch and release as an alternative to the 'Jaws' trophy hunt that occured here each summer.
The Monster Shark Tournament is usually attended by over 500 anglers. The average length boat in the tournament is 37' long. Tournament participants are typically males between 30 and 65 years in age but in recent years, there have been over a dozen female anglers taking part as well as several dozen junior anglers (16 and under). Entry fees per angler are $1,575 and last year, the winning angler was rewarded for his 'skill' thanks to his catch of a 538lb Thresher shark and a 278lb Mako.
Watch video from the 2012 tournament, filmed by the Earthrace team. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBG927itORQ&noredirect=1
Watch video footage from the 2011 tournament, courtesy of the Humane Society of the United States:
Oak Bluffs Monster Shark tournament b roll: http://video.humanesociety.org/press/video.php?bctid=983520929001&channe...
Evidence of illegal gambling at previous Monster Shark Tournament: http://video.humanesociety.org/press/video.php?bctid=983586885001&channe.... Whether or not illegal gambling is still taking place who knows?
The winning shark from the 2011 Monster Shark Tournament: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTzM28VMC1I