To the Editor:
We at the Shark Free Marinas Initiative (SFMI) applaud the efforts of the Vineyarders Against Shark Tournaments to bring the Martha’s Vineyard community together in support of sharks inhabiting the waters of New England. The SFMI is a voluntary program that works in tandem with businesses, fishermen, conservationists, and animal protection advocates to increase awareness that sharks have been severely depleted and should not be killed for sport alone. Kill tournaments target the largest sharks and most reproductively important, causing mortality of vulnerable shark species and teaching wasteful practices for future generations of fishermen. If the Monster Shark tournament went to all catch-and-release, as other shark tournaments are doing down the U.S. East Coast, it would send a powerful message about the environmental conscience of the Martha’s Vineyard community and the essential role that sharks play in the health of the ocean environment.
Over 120 marinas have joined (70 in Florida) as shark-free or shark-friendly marinas and Martha’s Vineyard would be a very important addition. Supporting organizations include the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, the Pegasus Foundation, Mote Marine Laboratory, Fishpond USA, and The Humane Society of the United States.
The good news is that shark protection is now a priority on many levels. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recently announced it would protect four imperiled shark species (tiger sharks, and great, scalloped and smooth hammerheads) in Florida waters beginning January 1, 2012. Last week, Asia’s oldest hotel chain, The Peninsula Hotels, announced it will stop serving shark fin at all its hotels starting January 1. And, Hawaii, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Washington, Oregon and California, have all passed legislation to prohibit the trade and sale of shark fins. Martha’s Vineyard has such a wonderful reputation — it would be great if you would join this growing positive trend to protect our ocean environment for future generations.