It has come to our attention, in an attempt to do “damage control,” Joe Mercurio, spokesman for the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS), has contacted the tournament sponsors, affiliates and participants to inform them of our cause.
The following is the email from Joe Mercurio:
A response from one our founding members:
Mr. Mercurio, Mr. Ingman, and Mr. Mize,
Please let us be very clear about what the Save The Tarpon movement is about. This is not an argument about whether or not jigs snag fish. What happens under the water in this regard is a heated topic and we each hold to our own convictions as to whether or not the fish are snagged. This however is not where most of the contention lies for the members of the Save The Tarpon movement. We have made no accusations or claims about what happens on the business end of the fishing line, but rather about what happens in plain view of each and every one of us who frequent Boca Grande Pass. It is obvious from your “key bullet issues” that you have not taken the time to consider what Save The Tarpon is actually about. What type of hook you use or the breaking strength of your fishing line is of no consequence to us. So before you jump to conclusions please take the time to read this letter from one of our founding members, and yes Mr. Mercurio you are correct…this is a direct attack on the content of your character as well as that of Gary Ingman, Gary Mize, and others who profit off of the destruction of a valuable and precious public resource:
The relentless, high speed, hyper-agressive pursuit of Tarpon in Boca Grande Pass portrayed during the PTTS events has carried over to much more than just tournament day. These techniques are obviously disruptive and destructive, and the fish handling after the catch can only be described as deplorable by even the novice angler. It is well documented that high speed boat operation of this magnitude has a profound negative effect on the habits of fish during pre-spawn rituals. You also will find volumes of scientific data by numerous respected marine scientists, both private and state sponsored, that indicates that the way in which the fish are gaffed, dragged by the lower draw, what is at times a considerable distance, and hoisted into the air drastically decreases its chance of survival no matter how skilled or caring your “release teams” are. For an organization who is so quick to use science to defend their actions, the PTTS sure falls short in this aspect. It should be clear to viewers that the actions taken by the PTTS to ensure higher TV ratings and profits would be illegal in the state of Florida would it not be for the kill tag inserted into the Tarpon. This is not a “temporary possesion until later released” tag, but is rather a tag meant to be permanently affixed to the fish designating your intent to harvest the fish. The state of Florida and its biologists have made it very clear through both increased regulations and several public memos that handling Tarpon in these ways will very often lead to the death of the fish. The glorification of the “weigh in photo” in the television series has lead to the wholesale slaughter of tarpon outside tournament time as viewers who travel to Boca Grande after watching the show demand their shot holding a soon-to-be-dead Tarpon as well. It takes only moments online to find literally dozens of recent examples posted by many members of the PTTS.
Let us also not forget that the Tarpon fishery of Boca Grande is a gift of nature to be treasured and enjoyed be each and every one of us. The actions and techniques portrayed, or rather glorified, on the PTTS television series have over run their bounds of simply a three to six hour, once weekly tournament and are now a seven day a week problem. No other fishing style employed for Tarpon, not just at Boca Grande but all Tarpon fisheries, specifically excludes others from their pursuit of these fish. It is often said that this is a conflict between two user groups, or an overcrowding problem. It is neither.
Those that frequent the pass not just during a few weeks in May and June, but rather year round, will tell you that it is wonderful to see many more boats than the numbers participating in PTTS working together in harmony, using fishing tactics as varied as the individuals themselves at many times throughout the year as well as at times other than when the “pack” is present. Those same people will tell you that should you attempt to employ any technique other than those portrayed in the tournament just about any morning in May or June, you are simply a fool. Not only will the actions of the “pack” have a negative impact on your success, but often the boats will intentionally step up their already agressive actions in order to intimidate or frustrate other anglers. Is this level of disrespect what the sponsors have in mind when they plaster their names and websites along the sides of the boats whos operators are treating fellow fishermen this way?
To make matters worse, the mentality fostered and supported by the PTTS and its participants is spilling over to other areas of fishing and at other times. Few now are the days of many boats of all different styles and sizes working in harmony while the fish peacefully move offshore in the evenings. We now must contend with the same “wrap boats,” as they have come to be known, frantically rushing around at high speed on top of the fish in shallow water, much to the dismay of those who cherish these moments that were already exceedingly rare. Even a small number of these mini “packs” can make quick work of disbanding an otherwise ‘happy group of fish?’ Gone are the mornings when the quiet march of boats up and down the beaches carefully navigate amongst each other as each vie for their opportunity to toss a bait or fly to the holy grail of beach Tarpon fishing, the daisy chain! The beaches are now run amuck with a parade of brightly colored sponsored boats flying up and down the beach or across the harbor, the thought of their negative impact on others fishing the area not even a flicker in the minds of their operators.
These are not issues pertaining to the number of boats or their fishing style, but rather to the respect of their operators for both other anglers and the fish themselves. These actions are not carried out by all PTTS participants nor are all those who carry out these actions participants of the PTTS. The most unfortunate part is that these actions are not necessary for, or even conducive, to any particular type of fishing, jigging or otherwise. That being said, this mentality has been born, bread, and raised by the PTTS to become the problem that it is today. The negative impacts on both the fishery and the community are numerous and extensive. These impacts are a direct result of the promotion and glorification of unethical and unacceptable behavior by the PTTS not in the name of sportsmanship, but in the name of profit. This resource belongs to all of us and is here to be enjoyed and cherished by all of us. It is not here to be exploited by Gary Ingman, Gary Mize, and Joe Mercurio for the sake of lining their own pockets.
Who is Save The Tarpon? Save The Tarpon is the voice of local residents, visitors, anglers, guides, parents, children, and anyone who wishes to preserve this historic fishery for generations to come through the promotion of ethical and responsible angling. The heart of this fishery beats deep within all of us who have fallen in love with Boca Grande, residents and visitors alike. We will not be detered by your feeble attempts to preserve your revenue stream at our expense.
Capt. Tom McLaughlin
Founding Member, SaveTheTarpon.com
To the sponsors and participants of the PTTS
Beginning tomorrow, we will start our official boycott campaign. The campaign will consist of picking one unique sponsor each day to spotlight in the boycott. We will create a webpage–specific to that sponsor– and explain why the public should participate in a boycott of the brand, products and/or services. We will also actively promote this boycott in the news media, on Facebook, as well as other social-media outlets. This boycott will remain active until you meet the following demands:
1. Permanently terminate your sponsorship of the PTTS and its affiliates, effective immediately.
2. Provide SaveTheTarpon.com with adequate evidence of this termination.
If you are able to meet the above demands, we will happily remove you from the boycott list and remove all mention of your brand on our site and Facebook page.