Private venue for shark tourney
The organizer of the Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament has withdrawn his request to use Washington Park for tournament events this year. Steve James said the tournament's traditional captain's meeting, and its wrap-up awards banquet, would go forward at a private venue.
That development followed a decision by the board of selectmen on May 13 to set a policy against issuing a temporary license for shark tournaments.
There are doubts about whether any private venue in Oak Bluffs could host the large gathering within the parameters of its standard liquor license. As a comparison, events such as the annual Chili Fest hosted by the Portuguese-American Club, require a one-day liquor permit from the board of selectmen.
Board chair Ron DiOrio, who spearheaded the policy measure, says it is not directed at an individual, but at any shark tournament event.
"It's now the policy," said Mr. DiOrio. "We will not issue any one-day permit under a tent or any other structure for a shark tournament, period. If someone else came in for a license, we wouldn't issue it."
Mr. James said several local organizations offered to host the events, but declined to say where they will be held this year. He said he didn't want the venue to become a target of those who oppose the shark tournament. Mr. James said he expects to hold the events somewhere in Oak Bluffs, but indicated they could be moved to Vineyard Haven.
Mr. James's original request to the parks commission, now withdrawn, was to erect a banquet tent that would accommodate approximately 900 people. In past years, the event has drawn more than that number of people, according to Mr. James.
The parks commission, by vote of its members, has full authority to decide on the use of public parks. At its meeting this past Monday, the commission granted a request from Mr. James to use Sunset Park for spectator vehicle parking.
Now in its 22nd year, the shark tournament has been a magnet for controversy since 2004, when the sports network ESPN televised the event in a four-part special program. At its 2007 town meeting, Oak Bluffs voters approved a non-binding referendum, by a vote of 458 to 386, that asked if the town should continue to allow the use of town property for events related to shark tournaments.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), an organization that has protested the event, weighed in on the selectmen's action last week. "The selectmen's decision sends a message that animal cruelty is not welcome in Oak Bluffs," said HSUS vice president John Grandy.