To the Editor:
This letter is in response to your July 19, article [Gone Fishin' : Monster shark tournament comes to town this weekend] in support of the Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament.
It is well known that shark populations worldwide are in grave peril. The coastal waters off our shores are part of a miraculous global ocean ecosystem. When we encourage the killing of even one shark in the interest of profiteering, we contribute unnecessarily to this serious problem. Living in a community such as ours requires that we must err on the side of caution when confronting ocean-related conservation issues such as the shark tournament. Divisive rhetoric, as presented in your recent article, deflects attention away from this important issue.
Contrary to your musings about the shark tournament having no effect on the character and spirit of Martha’s Vineyard, I offer the following observations. There were 26 arrests during this year’s tournament compared to seven during last year’s, an increase of over 200 percent. Last year’s payout for under-the-table so-called “Captain’s Bets” and “Calcuttas” was $180,000. This year’s winning dollar amount has yet to be announced. I sat with my wife on a bench behind slip #11 on the Oak Bluffs bulkhead for quite a while watching a shark fishing team desecrate the severed head of a small mako (which incidentally is a species vulnerable to worldwide extinction), by encouraging spectators, including young children, to place their hands and arms into the open jaws of this recently butchered guardian of our ocean.
Attempting to justify the shark tournament on the grounds that it is similar in nature to the Bass and Bluefish Derby reflects a lack of knowledge regarding the conservation status and life cycle/reproductive strategies of stripers and bluefish compared to those of porbeagle and mako sharks. Drawing this comparison does a disservice to those of us who heartily embrace our beloved fall classic fishing derby.
In conclusion, it is my view that the issues surrounding the monster shark tournament should be rightfully decided by the good people of Oak Bluffs. I strongly support the idea of a catch-and-release event. Dozens of big game fishing tournaments up and down the East Coast have selected this option with great success. Efforts are under way to place the catch-and-release option before the Oak Bluffs voters in time for the April 2013 town elections.
The monster shark tournament, from my perspective, diminishes who we are and what our Island represents. A reasonable solution to this ongoing problem will be for Oak Bluffs voters to instruct their elected officials to require that all future shark tournaments be catch-and-release events only.