We want to thank everyone for their generous and continuing support of Save The Tarpon’s ongoing “Fight Back Fund.” In less than two weeks you helped us meet and exceed our initial $20,000 goal – money we’re already putting to work, money we’re using RIGHT NOW to go toe-to-toe with Gary Ingman and his stable of PTTS lawyers.
We also have some game changing news to share. David M. Snyder , a nationally known media law expert whose clients have included CBS Broadcasting and the New York Times, has joined Save The Tarpon’s “Fight Back” legal team. And make no mistake, the game has now changed.
As you likely know, your efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. You got their attention in the only way Ingman and his flotilla of lawyers understand. Within days of our online campaign’s launch, and after you helped us raise more than $5,000 in a short 24 hour span, the PTTS panicked. You scared them with your outpouring of support. True to form, they’re now threatening to sue Save The Tarpon again. Why? They want to keep us from mustering the resources needed to continue to “Fight Back.”
It’s not happening.
In the face of this latest PTTS threat, and Ingman’s apparent willingness to spend whatever it takes to purchase our collective silence, we’ve taken a fresh look at what will be needed to put the unfiltered truth about the PTTS before a Charlotte County jury when Ingman’s day in court – and his day of reckoning – finally arrives. And with “snag, gaff and drag” a not-so-distant memory, we all understand what’s at stake and how easily it could all be lost.
With your help, we’ve turned the corner and we’re changing the game. Thanks for your continuing support of our efforts to protect and preserve the Boca Grande tarpon fishery.
In September of 2013, Florida’s fish and wildlife regulators heard you. They listened. They heard and they listened to your more than 27,000 voices as you demanded an end to the exploitation of one the planet’s most storied fisheries.
Your voices prompted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to stand up to the lawyers, the lobbyists, the legislative hired guns, the phony “Florida Tarpon Angler” front groups and the Tallahassee power players.
The seven FWC commissioners listened to your voices – to the voices of Save The Tarpon, its members and supporters – and cast a unanimous and historic vote to ban the notorious snatch and snag hook known as the “PTTS Jig” from the waters of Boca Grande Pass.
As anticipated, the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series and its owners retaliated less than a month later. The PTTS payback came in the form of a corruption of the court system known as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation , a perverse legal tactic typically used by deep pocket plaintiffs to spend advocacy groups like Save The Tarpon into submission.
The PTTS quickly deployed an armada of big-time, big-city, SLAPP-happy lawyers armed with truckloads of cash, bottomless billable hours and frivolous legal fictions, all designed to put money over merit by dragging Save The Tarpon from one courtroom to another – with the goal of keeping us in court until we ran out of money and the means to fight back. Two counties and three judges later, that’s where Save The Tarpon now finds itself.
In response, Save The Tarpon has established a legal defense campaign fund with a goal of raising a minimum of $20,000. Money we’ll use to fight back at Gary Ingman, Joe Mercurio, the PTTS and their SLAPP suit lawyers. Money we’ll use to aggressively defend your right to be heard as we work together to protect and preserve our historic fishery. And the PTTS is paying attention. They’re already taking steps to stop us by threatening additional legal action designed to cripple our strategic fundraising efforts. It won’t work.
The Gary Ingmans, the Joe Mercurios and the big money interests who brought us televised gaff and drag, the PTTS snag hook, the Wrap Boat Rodeo, the Spandex Ballet, the play-by-play shark attacks, the gutted tarpon and the tournament’s signature “controlled chaos” have now brought us perilously close to where our ability to carry the fight forward is in very real jeopardy.
“We’ll stop when someone makes us stop.”
With those words, Save The Tarpon was born. With those words, PTTS owner Gary Ingman dared Save The Tarpon into existence. “We’ll stop when someone makes us stop.”
Looking back, Ingman’s refusal to compromise, his refusal to even consider the most modest of reforms proposed by early critics of his high-flying TV tarpon tournament was, perhaps, understandable. Why should he?
In the spring of 2012, Ingman and his basic cable fishing show had figuratively taken title to Boca Grande Pass, a claim underwritten by some of the biggest and most powerful names in the business. Names like MillerCoors, Yamaha, Tires Plus and Costa del Mar. Ingman was holding all the cards. He was on top. For the moment.
Ingman’s “controlled chaos,” as PTTS front man Joe Mercurio would later stand before the FWC and smugly boast, was being piped into “more than 47 million” cable converter boxes throughout North America via ESPN, Fox Sports and the Sunshine Network. Meanwhile, Save The Tarpon was little more than a dinky Facebook page with a handful of followers. That was about to change.
“We’ll stop when someone makes us stop?”
Save The Tarpon accepted Ingman’s dare and went to work. Ingman had picked his fight. But we were determined to finish it. Within 18 short months, the improbable happened. Gaff and drag – Gone. The PTTS snag hook – Gone. Also gone were the big names and the big money promotional deals.
Save The Tarpon’s online educational efforts had served to alert the TV fishing tournament’s sponsors to the ugly reality of the abuses they were unwittingly underwriting. Individual economic pressure was also brought to bear. Sponsors slowly began drifting away. Gary Ingman’s dare had been accepted. And Gary Ingman had been made to stop.
In a bid designed to stem the bleeding, Ingman tossed open the checkbook. The high-priced Tampa SLAPP suit lawyers were summoned. And we saw the battleground move away from the court of public opinion and into a court of law where Ingman and the PTTS were determined to buy back all that had been lost.
(Incredibly, the PTTS initially filed suit in Sarasota County Circuit Court. Where, coincidentally, Mercurio’s father Fred happens to be a judge! Nice try, but it didn’t work. The PTTS lawyers later claimed filing in what was clearly the wrong jurisdiction – the one where Joe’s daddy was a judge – was a paperwork error, nothing more than an innocent mistake. What do you think?)
Ingman and his SLAPP suit lawyers are attacking Save The Tarpon’s constitutionally protected right to speak up and speak out in defense of the fishery. But they haven’t stopped there.
Our ability to work in concert to achieve a common good, a “fundamental freedom” etched into law by the Supreme Court, has also come under attack. As a result, Save The Tarpon now finds itself in danger of being summarily and arbitrarily gagged. And the danger is real. We’ve sadly come to learn that when money talks, the Constitution walks.
The intent of a SLAPP suit is to censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the expense of fighting costly and frivilous legal maneuvers until they have no choice but to abandon their criticism and opposition. And, absent your help, it’s about to happen to us. Our voices will be effectively and perhaps permanently silenced.
Tragically, there’s just one effective way to slap back at a SLAPP suit wielded by a SLAPP-happy, deep-pocketed Southwest Florida boat dealer out to buy back everything we’ve all worked so hard to accomplish.
Yes, money. Money for courtrooms. Money for lawyers. Money for motions, pleadings and appearances. Money we’ll need as we prepare to carry the unfiltered truth about Ingman, Mercurio and the PTTS into a Punta Gorda courtroom and place it before a jury of six Charlotte County citizens.
Money that sends a clear signal to the Ingmans, the Mercurios and the entire PTTS posse that we won’t be silenced, that we won’t be SLAPPed around, that we’re here to finish the fight they started and that no matter what, we won’t be bullied and we won’t back down.
Enough is enough.
We’re fighting for more than a fishery. And we won’t back down. We’re fighting for more than our shared right to speak freely and unafraid. And we won’t back down. We are, at the end of the day, fighting for our kids. For our kids and their kids. For future generations. That’s what this is about. What it’s always been about. It’s why it matters. And it’s why we can’t back down, why we won’t back down.
It’s why we’re asking you to take up our fight and once again make it your fight. To help us see it to the end, and to carry it forward in the months, years and decades to come.
Will you stand with us?
We once again need you at our side, to once again stand with us as we wage this latest battle to make our collective voices heard. To preserve all that has been won, with a keen understanding of how easily it could all be lost absent the resources needed to see this fight to the finish. We won’t be silenced. We won’t be bullied. We won’t allow a return to the days of snag, gaff, drag and dump. Together, we can send them a message..
We won’t be silenced.
We won’t be intimidated.
We won’t be bullied.
We won’t be spent into submission.
We won’t quit.
With your help, we’re fighting back.
And we won’t back down.