Moderator’s Note: This post was written by our newest savethetarpon.com contributor, Panhandle Fly Guide. Please welcome him aboard the Save the Tarpon campaign.
Don’t you just love how if you oppose the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS) or support Save The Tarpon you automatically get character-assassinated by Mr. Collecchio, Mr. Mercurio or some other PTTS crony? Okay, I’ll bite—I’m guilty on both accounts so fire away.
Here, I’ll help you out: I think the PTTS is the ultimate example of fishing gone wrong and perpetually abuses the fishery, scoffs at conservation and stewardship and mishandles one of the noblest game fish on earth just for corporate profit.
I must therefore be one of those “left-wing environmental extremists” Mr. Mercurio loves to talk about on his Facebook page:
Except that I’m not, I’m a sportsman. I just don’t support all fishing practices. You call me elitist because I don’t consider snagging fish to be sporting? Do you consider dynamite fishing sporting? If the goal of tournaments is just to “catch” the biggest fish with method being no object why don’t you just net them or better yet electroshock them then race to see who can get the biggest one that floats to the surface? Sound absurd?—you extremist, you! If you really don’t believe that pass-jigging snags fish then how about instituting a rule that each “catch” be evaluated by the FDW for hook placement? To make it even more fun you could have the rule stipulate that any fish hooked outside the mouth automatically disqualifies the team (no biggie, remember that you don’t believe that jigging snags fish).
Well, obviously I must just have a thing against jig-fishermen. I must be one of those local live-bait guides who’s just trying to start a turf war and only motivated by money. Except that I don’t live in the area, I don’t fish with live bait nor do I guide in Boca Grande. I just don’t want this donkey-show going in ANYONE’S backyard. Furthermore, those same fish that get hounded by the PTTS around the pass at Boca Grande in May are the same ones I fish for up here in July. So you’ll pardon me if I’m perturbed by the sight of dead tarpon in the water or washing up on shore in the wake of the PTTS and I roll my eyes at your insistence that the PTTS has nothing to do with it.
So clearly I must be an uneducated, unscientific, weak-minded person who’s been swayed into believing that the PTTS is harmful by an organization with an agenda. Except that I’m not—as a physician I am actually quite adept at critically evaluating scientific evidence. Remember that it took decades to scientifically prove that smoking causes lung cancer, meanwhile it became the number-one cause of cancer-related death. During the interim life insurance companies charged higher premiums for smokers despite the lack of scientific proof not because of discrimination but because they realized that smoking was harmful and resulted in increased cost. By the time the scientific proof was there the damage was already done, just ask the families of those who died from lung cancer while amassing the evidence—they are irreplaceably gone. Just as by the time tarpon fishery and mortality statistics are amassed the damage is already done.
The bottom line is that Mr. Colecchio, Mr. Mercurio and the PTTS resort to the tactics they use because they feel threatened and rightfully so. They’ve seen the rising tide of people like you and me who want to end the PTTS and they’re having a harder and harder time passing us off as extremists, elitists, exclusivists, ignorami or any other title that will marginalize us. They’ve received a first-hand lesson in what happens when you abuse the system and a group of dedicated individuals decides to hold you accountable. Six months ago they mocked Save The Tarpon and anyone that got in their way of doing things. Now the times have changed: they’ve caved on their gaff, drag, hoist and weigh format, they’ve lost sponsorship and it’s harder and harder to portray the event positively on TV when there are so many people voicing their displeasure. Keep up the hard work and make it your goal to make this the last year of the PTTS. Don’t worry Mr. Collecchio, I’m sure there’s always work for you at big-tobacco—you clearly already have the rhetoric down.