Selectmen weigh expert view on Oak Bluffs Monster Shark tourneyPublished by the Martha’s Vineyard Times,
28. March 2012
Division of Marine Fisheries biologist and well-known shark research scientist Greg Skomal provided the Oak Bluffs board of selectmen with an overview of the Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament Tuesday.
The board is evaluating a request by a group of Island residents, Vineyarders against shark tournaments, that the annual tournament become a “catch and release” event, and selectmen prohibit the weighing of sharks on the harbor.
Mr. Skomal was careful to limit his remarks to the science of sharks. He said 25 continuous years of scientific data from sharks caught by tournament fishermen is important, and he would not like to lose the information.
But he said that issue should be separate from the philosophical issues. “The motivating force behind any tournament should not be the science,” Mr. Skomal said. “I don’t think (tournament organizer) Steve James runs a competitive fishing tournament because he wants to provide a platform for scientific analysis.”
He said the tournament does not affect conservation efforts. He said Mr. James is adhering to conservation strategies established by the state and federal government that are intended to preserve endangered or overfished species, and has cooperated with every request of regulators and scientists.
“I don’t believe this tournament, any tournament, or even the U.S fisheries in general has any kind of impact,” Mr. Skomal said.
He also presented data that shows that since 1996, at least 95 percent of sharks caught by tournament fishermen are released at sea, and less than 5 percent are brought back to the harbor to be weighed in.
“It looks to me like this is pretty much catch and release as it is,” selectman Mike Santoro said.
Selectmen agreed to research ownership of the bulkhead area next to Our Market where sharks are weighed before large crowds each year. Opponents of the shark tournament cited a town policy that prohibits any sharks from being displayed on town property. (…)