Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Shark Tournament Change - One Clinic at a Time

We have been supporters of changes coming to shark tournaments in the USA for a while. After close to a decade of failed zero sum policy by many within the conservation community seeking to have all shark tournaments "shut down," the realization that we must inhabit a middle ground for successful conservation is dawning on many.

The middle ground is a two pronged approach by members of the tournament fishing community and forward thinking conservation members to embrace circle hooks, and catch, tag and release tournament models.

It's a conservation strategy that works with the fishing community instead of marginalizing them, embracing a multi million dollar sportfishing community by allowing leadership to make important and long ranging conservation decisions based on science and best fishing practices.

This week that conservation strategy is spreading to Ocean City and only good things can come of it.

The big news this year is that the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation has signed on as a major sponsor of the OC Shark Tournament Release Division. Through his foundation's involvement, Harvey hopes to provide an increased level of shark conservation while demonstrating to the fishing industry that release tournaments with large cash payouts can be both successful as well as a wise alternative to traditional events that result in dead fish to being brought back to the scales.

OCEAN CITY -- For a long time, most tournament directors relied solely on the weight of dead fish at the dock to determine the winners of their event. But today, as more fishermen recognize the need for catch-and-release fishing, many tournament directors are responding by increasing the emphasis on release categories in their events. But properly running a release tournament, or even just a release division, is no easy task.

For a release division in which no physical evidence of the fish will be brought in, there must be rules and procedures to ensure the validity of each catch. Winners need to be properly verified just as losers need to be assured that they lost fairly.

Equally important is the need for anglers who engage in catch-and-release fishing, tournament or not, to do so with due regard to the survivability of their catch.

There's not much point in releasing a fish that's going to die anyway. This is particularly true in tournaments that result in a sudden increase in the amount of fishermen targeting species of fish that might already be pressured from other sources.

Since tournament anglers will likely be fishing at the top of their game, the average catch-and-release rates per angler go up during tournaments and, therefore, the need for proper release techniques is important.

With all this in mind, on Saturday, May 21, myself and the other the directors of the 31st Annual Ocean City Shark Tournament will be conducting a shark release clinic on the docks at the Ocean City Fishing Center from 4-7 p.m.

Complete story.

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