Shark tourney head Steve James to tone down fish rhetoric

Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament organizer Steve James met with town selectmen Thursday. — Photo by Steve Myrick

Updated 1:05 pm, Friday, April 5, 2013

Steve James, organizer of the annual Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament, promised the town’s selectmen he will do less antagonizing and more educating at the tournament weigh-in this summer.

As a condition of granting a permit for the July 18–20 event, selectmen asked Mr. James to appear before the board and answer questions. He met with them at a special meeting Thursday afternoon.

“The interacting with the protestors doesn’t make sense,” selectman Greg Coogan told Mr. James. “Education is one thing, taunting is another.”

Mr. James said he would like to get rid of that aspect of the gathering.

“Everyone has freedom of speech,” Mr. James said. “Last year there were about 20 animal activists. It doesn’t seem to me that it makes a lot of sense to get those people that close to that crowd. Maybe you need to think about permitting protests in a designated area.”

Mr. James also agreed not to sell merchandise on town property, and said he was open to changing the dates of the tournament in future years.

Selectmen will amend the tournament application to incorporate some of the offers Mr. James made at the meeting, but assured him the tournament can go on as scheduled this summer.

Oak Bluffs police say they were overwhelmed by a large crowd of spectators who were drawn to the event last summer. They made more than the usual number of arrests, and selectmen received many complaints about public drinking at last year’s event.

In the application, town officials asked for $17,296 in extra police, ambulance, and public works services for the event. That cost will be covered by a surcharge on tournament participants and spectator vessels that use harbor moorings.

This article was updated to clarify that tournament participants and spectators will pay the cost of added public services, not Mr. James.