More arrests, but less trouble, at shark tournament

Crowds were smaller at the Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament weigh station this year. — Photo by Christy Aumer

Oak Bluffs Police said they made more arrests than last year, but said extra staffing allowed them to adequately enforce public drinking laws and react to fights over the busy weekend of the Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament Friday and Saturday.

Oak Bluffs police Chief Erik Blake said there were 23 arrests over the two day tournament, six arrests Friday night, and 17 arrests Saturday. He said many of the calls were alcohol related, including disorderly conduct and fights.

Last year police made 21 arrests, but said they were overwhelmed by the rowdy crowds. The tournament generated many complaints to town officials and police last year.

Oak Bluffs began a permit process for this year’s tournament. Organizers were required to pay $17,296 for extra police, ambulance, and public works services. The cost was covered by a surcharge on tournament fishermen and fees for spectator vessels that use harbor moorings.

“The policy of having the tournament pay for the services worked,” Chief Blake said. “We were properly staffed and were able to proactively address issues.”

Harbormaster Todd Alexander said he noticed smaller crowds around the weigh station this year, but the harbor mooring field was just as crowded, and he observed the same number of floating parties.

“It was as crazy as ever, it wasn’t any worse, it wasn’t any better,” Mr. Alexander said.

Several spectators looking to catch a glimpse of a shark said hot weather might have kept the crowds lower, but tournament organizer Steven James believes something else was a factor.

Mr. James attributed the decline to extra fees and confusion about whether the tournament became catch-and-release contest this year.

At their annual town meeting and on the town election ballot in April, Oak Bluffs voters approved a non-binding resolution asking whether the shark tournament should be catch-and-release only.

Mr. James said becoming a catch-and-release tournament would discourage spectators.

“The big draw will go away because there is nothing to see,” Mr. James said.

He added the tournament may move elsewhere next year.