PTTS LawsuitClaiming it has lost more than $500,000 in sponsorship, TV advertising, entry fees and other revenues, the company that owns and operates the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS) has gone to court in an attempt to silence Save The Tarpon, Inc. and its more than 20,000 members and supporters.

Silver King Entertainment, Inc., which operates the PTTS, is seeking an emergency injunction against the organization in a 235 page civil complaint filed April 29 in Sarasota County Circuit Court. In addition to the injunction aimed at restraining Save The Tarpon, Inc. and its board members from speaking out on issues concerning the PTTS and the Boca Grande tarpon fishery, Silver King Entertainment, Inc. is seeking unspecified damages from the non-profit advocacy group and selected members of its board of directors.

Tom McLaughlin, chairman of Save The Tarpon, Inc. and one of the defendants individually targeted in the complaint, said that he is not particularly surprised that Silver King Entertainment, Inc. filed the PTTS lawsuit given the apparent effectiveness of the group’s efforts in making the voices of its members and supporters heard.

McLaughlin, who referred legal questions to Save The Tarpon, Inc.’s attorneys, said the PTTS charted its own course nearly a year ago when tournament organizers told the fledgling organization it would continue engaging in practices the conservation group considers harmful to the fish and the iconic fishery until “someone tells us to stop.”

Noting Silver King Entertainment, Inc.’s claim that it has since lost more than $500,000 attributable to the actions of Save The Tarpon, Inc., McLaughlin characterized the tournament’s stated injuries as “self-inflicted” and contrary to Silver King’s prior public comments that the group’s efforts were having no impact on the PTTS, its sponsors, or its participants.

“They refused to listen to the voices of those whose only goal was to preserve, protect and grow this storied fishery,” McLaughlin said. “And now they want to make those same voices shut up and go away. As the courts have repeatedly and clearly stated, this isn’t how it works in this country.”

Save The Tarpon, Inc. is represented by Brian M. Beason, a partner in the Port Charlotte law firm Frohlich, Gordon and Beason, P.A. Beason declined comment, noting that the lengthy PTTS complaint is still being reviewed. According to court records, the lawsuit was filed on behalf of Silver King Entertainment, Inc. by Tampa attorneys Mitchell L. Feldman and Dennis A. Creed.

In addition to McLaughlin and Save The Tarpon, Inc., board members Lew Hastings, Frank Davis, Chris Frohlich, Mark Futch, Walton “Tommy” Locke Jr. and Rhett Morris are also named as defendants in the lawsuit. Richard Hirsh, who no longer serves on the Save The Tarpon, Inc. board, is also listed as a defendant. Hastings, recently appointed executive director of Save The Tarpon, Inc., also serves as executive director of the Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce.

McLaughlin said Silver King Entertainment, Inc.’s lawsuit and its request for injunctive relief ask the court to invoke the rarely successful legal tactic of “prior restraint,” a maneuver designed to prohibit Save The Tarpon, Inc. and the individual defendants from publishing or voicing opinions or concerns that could potentially cast the televised tarpon tournament in a poor light.

McLaughlin noted that former Chief Justice of the United States Warren Burger, in the Supreme Court’s 1976 landmark Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart ruling that declared the tactic unconstitutional, wrote that “prior restraints on speech and publication are the most serious and least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights.”

Pointing to a lengthy list of sponsors who have withdrawn their support of the tournament in recent months, Silver King Entertainment, Inc is also asking the court to force Save The Tarpon, Inc. to end its member-driven online boycott of businesses that support the controversial event. McLaughlin said the legality of the group’s voluntary boycott efforts was affirmed in yet another landmark ruling, one that dates to the civil rights movement of the 1960s. In its ruling, the Supreme Court found that a peaceful boycott was a constitutionally protected form of legitimate free speech under the First Amendment.

McLaughlin cited the words of Justice John Paul Stevens who, writing for the majority, stated “concerted action is a powerful weapon. And yet one of the foundations of our society is the right of individuals to combine with other persons in pursuit of a common goal by lawful means.”

Characterizing the PTTS lawsuit as “an act of obvious desperation,” McLaughlin said Save The Tarpon, Inc. will “aggressively defend the ability of our members and supporters to have their voices heard on this and any other issue that impacts the future of our fishery and our community. We will continue the fight to protect, preserve and grow this vital public resource. We won’t be silent, we aren’t going away.”



15 Responses to PTTS claims $500,000 boycott loss, wants court to silence Save The Tarpon

  1. Karen Moran says:

    Nicely done Silver King Entertainment & PTTS – I detest you even more now.

  2. Dan Ferraris says:

    This is absurd. Is there a way we can contribute online?

    • Jason bever says:

      I’m glad to find this opportunity for people to have a civil back and forth dialog about the tarpon fishery. I do think there are valid points on both sides of the issue. I hope calmer heads can prevail.

  3. Jason says:

    Yes let’s get together and see if we can force all these out of towners out of here! How dare they come here and support the local economy. Only we can profit from the tarpon fishery! We control the local paper and the chamber…we should be able to do whatever we want!

  4. Jason bever says:

    “If there are legitimate scientific points to be shared I’m interested in learning. I’m afraid at this point I still think this is a locals vs seasonal fisherman issue. If you want to rid fisherman of the jig then present scientific or at least a theory that explains why jig fishing is detrimental to tarpon populations. Is it true that tarpon caught on jigs have higher mortality than those caught any other way? Admittedly I am not a biologist or even a very experienced tarpon fisherman. But I find it hard to understand why save the tarpon cites the jig as their big issue. If mortality is similar between jig and live baiter fisherman then it looks to me like its not about the jig and saving the tarpon. It looks to me (an outsider) like local charters and the chamber of commerce trying to have control over who gets to profit from the pass and the tarpon fishery. I would like to fly fish for tarpon myself!

    Sent from my iPad

  5. jose wejebe says:

    that fat announcer dude can suck my nuts

  6. Chad says:

    I agree with Jason, is there really scientific evidence to say the jig is worse than other catching methods. I am not from FL either and agree with you assuming you have done the research but have you, cause I have not seen anything. Also just a suggestion but you may not want to bash “all” of the outsiders that come to your pass to fish. Some of them may also be supporters of your cause, like myself, a for fish conservation advocate from the northeast. I live on a fragile fishery as well and know how annoying outsiders can be, but I am an outsider that supports your cause and the comments to keep “all” outsiders out and how they are all bad just pisses me off and make me not want to support “your cause! Just maybe something to think about before everyone goes and runs their mouth.

  7. dv says:

    Yes, it looks like they do a very good job of making sure the fish are treated and released safely… maybe you should watch the clip below. Jigging has a high fowl hook up ratio, that is their argument.

    You might want to slow your “out of towner” roll a bit because you obviously don’t understand the reference to out of towners is not to keep tourists away from fishing but rather “out of towner” is reference to non-local charter companies who do not treat the fishery with respect that they should.

    FYI- most research studies are in the range of 100k when it is all said and done, and that is a conservative number, it shouldn’t take a research study to see the detrimental effects of poor angling ethics…

    • Chad says:

      Just merely wanted people to realize that “out of towner” means all outsiders, whether that be good or bad. So maybe that wasn’t meant to mean all outsiders but that was my point to not use such an expression.

      Also yes research does cost money but there are ways to get the research done for free or at least have someone else pick up the tab. Contact a University with an aquaculture program that would have grad students interested in writing a thesis on such a topic. Every grad student has to do research on and write one under a professor and it’s hard for them to find interesting and time relevant topics.

      I think we all wish it didn’t take such things to see ethical fishing but that is the world we live in now, and for legal battles or new laws to pass scientific proof will be needed.

  8. Kristie K. says:

    “Jason says:
    May 2, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    Yes let’s get together and see if we can force all these out of towners out of here! How dare they come here and support the local economy. Only we can profit from the tarpon fishery! We control the local paper and the chamber…we should be able to do whatever we want!”

    You, my friend, have it all wrong!

    Speaking on behalf of myself, an Englewood, Fl Resident; I welcome anyone that comes to this wonderful area to profit monetarily and help further and better our resources. However, I do not welcome undesirable and destructive attitudes towards a resource in which we hold so dear. If only you could be here, to see the way the majority of this tournaments followers treat people with any other belief than their own, you may only begin to understand where our cries for help have originated from.

    At first, we calmly voiced our concern in regards to a few of the PTTS practices. We were received with the gut-wrenching attitude of, “I don’t care what happens to this fishery as long as i’m making money”.

    To someone that sees the tarpon in the pass on a weekly basis, battle with a crowd of the PTTS’s characteristic for a place to enjoy a leisurely “roll” and merely be able to eat, it becomes entirely much deeper than just an out of towner vs. local discussion.

    “Tarpon fighting with a crowd of boats in order to be able to roll the surface of the water and eat?” ……….What?

    All we asked for was some respect. All we asked for was some recognition from the LOCAL (thats right, I said “LOCAL”) and non-local PTTS captains in that what they were doing was indeed destructive.

    We got nothing.

    In return, we took further action. We took further action to secure our beautiful resource for MANY people, from FAR and WIDE, to be able to enjoy for many generations to come.

    Best Regards,

    Kristie K.

  9. Captain Mark Futch says:

    To quote Oscar Wilde, ” There are none so blind as those who will not see”

    • I think this issue was best explained in the article that Randy Wayne White wrote. Mark Futch, you were quoted in that article, do you have a link to it? Even I, as a native Floridian and former resident of Boca Grande, didn’t understand the issue until it was explained so well in that article. Markaritas anyone? ;)

  10. Kathy Shanley says:

    I think this issue was best explained in the article that Randy Wayne White wrote. Mark Futch, you were quoted in that article, do you have a link to it? Even I, as a native Floridian and former resident of Boca Grande, didn’t understand the issue until it was explained so well in that article. Markaritas anyone? ;)

Submit Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>