FWC and Mote Marine Clarify position on PTTS, Ingman’s and Mercurio’s lies exposed

Updated: Monday, June 25, 2012 with statement from Mote Marine.
Mote Marine & FWC

Over the last several years those following the PTTS, and the controversy around it, have often heard the statement that the “PTTS is backed by FWC and Mote.”  As a matter of fact, this exact statement is a quote attributed to none other than Mr. Gary Ingman himself, as published in the Englewood Sun on Monday June 18, 2012.  Apparently the writer of the article, Drew Winchester, did not take it upon himself to contact FWC or Mote Marine to verify this outlandish statement.  We did, and here is what we found.

We contacted FWC and were put in contact with Amanda Nalley, a spokesperson for FWC. We were quickly and clearly informed that the FWC does not sanction, endorse, support, or back the PTTS. They attend the events in a law enforcement position, and have one biologist on site to collect samples. FWC also does not condemn the event, but “certainly does not back or support it in any way.”  Ms. Nalley also went on to say “What the PTTS does is legal, but our position is that if you are going to release a fish that you do so immediately and that you do not gaff, drag, tow, remove from the water, or otherwise excessively handle the fish. Especially with large fish such as Tarpon.”  This sentiment is reflected very clearly on the FWC website and in several publications relating to proper fish handling.

What did Mote Marine Laboratory &  Aquarium of Sarasota, Florida have to say about “backing” the PTTS?  “Mote does NOT help organize, endorse or receive funding from any tournament.” says Hayley Rutger, public relations coordinator for Mote.  She also went on to say that their official position is  “More research is needed to understand how two common fishing techniques — jig fishing and live bait — affect tarpon or the tarpon fishery.”  We at SaveTheTarpon.com couldn’t agree more!

Mr. Ingman and Mr. Mercurio have been quoted, and published in their own words, that both FWC and Mote Marine Lab support, endorse, back, or “oversee” their events.  As a matter of fact it has been one of the most compelling arguments echoed throughout the PTTS community.  We think its time that the PTTS start explaining to its participants, followers, and critics just what they meant by those statements.

 

Project Tarpon requested assistance from PTTS in satellite tagging program.

This message was sent to us from Alan Scott Alford of Project Tarpon:

I help spearhead the satellite tagging of tarpon in Texas and work with BTT and the University of Miami on the efforts in Texas and elsewhere (Nicaragua etc.).  I talked with Joe M. a couple years back about possibly placing satellite tags in fish during the PTTS.  He seemed somewhat receptive to possibly doing it.  In early May of 2012, I sent the PTTS and Joe M. a letter…. asking for their consent to allow us to satellite tarpon caught and weighed in the tournament.  It received no response.  It would seem that satellite tagging of tarpon would be good publicity and make for great TV.  It would have cost the PTTS nothing.  Also, wouldn’t this have answered the question, once and for all?  Why didn’t they agree?  I am making this letter public, because I think it is important to the discussion that the PTTS never responded.

Please feel free to share our letter and the link below.  Some may find it interesting.

Project Tarpon’s Letter to the PTTS

 

 

 

 

PTTS: A Far Cry From “Catch and Release.”

Tarpon Gaffed in HeadIt has come to the attention of those involved in every facet of the fight to end unethical and unacceptable angling and handling practices in Boca Grande–namely the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series–that the owners, managers, participants, and supporters seem to think of the PTTS as a “catch and release” tournament.  Let’s take this time to clarify exactly what is taking place in Boca Grande Pass on the weekends.

The term “catch and release” is not one to be thrown about nonchalantly.  It is, in fact, a technical term in the state of Florida and has been successfully held up in court to prosecute fisheries violations.  

The state of Florida describes “catch and release” as the fish being “returned immediately and unharmed.”  It is this very definition that requires the PTTS to use the tarpon kill tag in order to gaff, drag, and weigh the fish during the televised events.

The PTTS and Joe Mercurio would have both the viewers and the sponsors believe that just because they return the fish to the water after they are finished with their antics, that this constitutes catch and release.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The very same FWC that Mr. Mercurio says he works closely with will go on to tell you, once you take possession of the fish (i.e. gaffing) you are no longer “releasing” the fish.  Once you move from catch and release to possession, the state does not distinguish between a fish dragged, weighed, and towed off by the ‘release team,’ or a fish whose throat is slit and laid on the beach for the birds to eat.  Though the mortality rate may be different, it is clear that based on extensive catch and release mortality studies, the chances of survival are considerably less than those of a fish who is unhooked, popped off a leader, or otherwise allowed to go free immediately after being caught.

In the world of fisheries management a fish returned to the water with a questionable chance of survival is referred to as a “discard.”  This again is a technical term just like “catch and release.”  It does not exist to make one feel better or worse about the disposition of their catch. Why is the difference between “catch and release” and “discards” so important?  Because a large majority of the PTTS viewers are not particularly skilled or educated anglers.  In general, they have very little knowledge of the intricacies of proper post-catch fish handling.  However, many do understand conservation organizations, both private and governmental, support and promote ethical fish handling such as “catch and release.”  When they are lead to believe the handling they see on TV during the PTTS is “catch and release,” they use the television show as instruction as to how to properly handle tarpon and other big game fish.  This is a dangerous situation.  The fact that these fish are not “released” but rather “discarded” will never even enter their mind.

It is the responsibility of those who profit from fishing to promote proper etiquette, promote ethical angling, and promote true “catch and release.”  The time of kill tarpon tournaments is gone, and now its time to end “catch and discard” tournaments masquerading as “catch and release.”

The same goes for the sponsors of the PTTS who will surely be inquiring as to why Save the Tarpon, Inc is calling for a boycott of their business.  They will be told the same as the television viewers heard. ‘Live release, live release, live release.’  The fact remains, most of the fish mishandled by the PTTS die.  And for no other reason than to provide TV drama in the relentless pursuit for higher ratings.

And though the tournament only officially takes place on weekends, the damage to the resource does not stop on Monday morning.  The fallacy continues throughout the week as tarpon are dragged to the beach at Boca Grande, most illegally without the use of a tarpon tag, simply because charter clients demand the same photo-op they saw on TV back home.  If it’s good enough for the PTTS then it’s good enough for them, right?

Fisheries worldwide have made great strides towards bringing public perception inline with what the scientific community agrees is acceptable fish handling through the promotion of “catch and release.”  Even the oft mentioned Boca Grande Guides Association, accused of killing “countless numbers of tarpon” by members of the PTTS, has not gaffed, dragged, or removed a tarpon from the water in the course of a tournament since 2007.

As we progress through life, especially as anglers, we are constantly learning.   We may not have all made the right decisions in the past, but that does not mean we cannot make them in the future.  Our understanding of fisheries is increasing at a pace quicker than we can get the word out to the general public. It is the responsibility of those who profit from fishing to promote proper etiquette, promote ethical angling, and promote true “catch and release.”  The time of kill tarpon tournaments is gone, and now its time to end “catch and discard” tournaments masquerading as “catch and release.”

 

Capt. Tom McLaughlin, Founding member of SaveTheTarpon.com