Skeeter Boats latest big name sponsor to withdraw from PTTS

Skeeter BoatsSkeeter Boats has announced it is joining Andros Boatworks, Costa del Mar Sunglasses and Tires Plus Total Car Care as the latest high profile brand to end its affiliation with the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series.

In a statement released Wednesday, Feb. 20, the company pointed to “the controversy surrounding the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series,” noting that it “will not renew its sponsorship agreement with the PTTS for 2013.”

Skeeter Boats is a subsidiary of Yamaha Marine. The company’s brief statement did not address whether Yamaha has yet to make a decision to continue its 2013 affiliation with the tournament through its outboard motor division. Ingman Marine, owned by PTTS principal Gary Ingman, is one of Southwest Florida’s largest Yamaha dealers, with three locations in Charlotte and Sarasota counties.

“Yamaha Marine supports many agencies and organizations that are focused on conservation to protect and enhance our fishery resources. We encourage all anglers and organizations to support these efforts,” the company said in its announcement.

Yamaha’s decision to further distance itself from the PTTS comes just four days after Tires Plus Total Car Care announced it was ending its sponsorship of the controversial tarpon tournament. The Skeeter Boats announcement was made one day after Save The Tarpon published an “open letter” to PTTS sponsors on SaveTheTarpon.com inviting them to voluntarily end their affiliation with the tournament.

Costa del Mar Sunglasses and Tires Plus Total Car Care pulled the sponsorship plug on the PTTS after the companies were spotlighted by Save The Tarpon through its online “Do The WRITE Thing” campaign. The effort brought together the group’s nearly 14,000 members and supporters who reached out to both high-profile PTTS sponsors.

Yamaha’s decision to withraw the financial support of its Skeeter Boats division – its boats were part of the tournament’s 2012 prize package – is the latest setback to hit the PTTS. The tournament, through its TV show host Joe Mercurio, recently announced it was forced to cancel all but one Women’s Professional Tarpon Tournament Series event due to what Mercurio said was “the persistent challenging economic operating environment.” The decision to abandon the women’s events came in the aftermath of Costa’s withdrawal and eight days prior to Tires Plus official announcement it was pulling the sponsorship plug.

Troy Sapp, senior vice president of the Florida Guides Association and an outspoken supporter of the PTTS, is among the tournament participants who had been sponsored by Skeeter Boats.

Skeeter Boats is a major player in the boating industry. Company founder Holmes Thurmond is credited with inventing the modern bass boat in 1948 and the first fiberglass bass boat in 1961.

You did it! Tires Plus pulls the plug on the PTTS

Rodney Taucher, PTTS co-owner

Rodney Taucher, PTTS co-owner, stepped in a lot more than he figured when he struck a pose while stepping on a dead PTTS tarpon. Publication of the photo, along with your calls and emails, prompted Tires Plus to become the latest company to drop its PTTS sponsorship. Taucher was wearing a Tires Plus tee shirt in the original photo,

Tires Plus Total Car Care Inc.,  through its parent company Bridgestone/Firestone, has confirmed it is withdrawing its sponsorship of the 2013 Professional Tarpon Tournament Series as a result of efforts by Save The Tarpon’s more than 12,000 members and supporters worldwide.

“Tires Plus is not a 2013 PTTS sponsor,” according to Susan Steino, manager of public relations for Bridgestone Retail Operations LLC., which purchased the Clearwater-based tire and auto service chain in 2000.

Tires Plus had sponsored the controversial PTTS “Tires Plus Release Team,” which had become better known as the “Tires Plus Drag and Dump Crew” for its documented practice of dragging near-dead tarpon to the deepest part of Boca Grande Pass and dumping them. According to statements made on air by PTTS host Joe Mercurio, the team’s alleged purpose was to “revive” the fish.

Steino had earlier said Bridgestone was unaware its subsidiary was sponsoring the controversial tarpon tournament until the company began receiving phone calls and emails from Save The Tarpon supporters. Tires Plus was profiled January 21 as a PTTS sponsor.

Tires Plus is the second PTTS sponsor and the second Florida-based company to be “targeted” by Save The Tarpon’s “Do The Write Thing” awareness effort. The first, Costa Del Mar Sunglasses Inc., withdrew its PTTS sponsorship earlier last month in the wake of publication of a similar sponsor profile. Both former PTTS sponsors were part of a broader Save The Tarpon boycott campaign. Both have been removed from the list as a result of their decision to sever ties with the PTTS.

Boycott Tires Plus - Total Car CareTires Plus said a photo of a PTTS official wearing a company tee shirt while posing with his foot resting on a dead PTTS tarpon, along with other photographs and video at SaveTheTarpon.com and on Facebook showing roped tarpon being towed into the Pass by boats bearing the Tires Plus brand, hastened the company’s decision to become the latest sponsor to bolt the televised fishing tournament.

Daytona Beach-based Costa Del Mar Sunglasses Inc., a subsidiary of the A. T. Cross Company, was spotlighted by SaveTheTarpon.com in an online sponsor profile on December 28, 2012. Costa notified Save The Tarpon Inc. on January 13, 2013 that it, too, was cutting the sponsorship cord to the PTTS. Costa was subsequently removed from the Save The Tarpon boycott list. It has since received dozens of messages via Facebook alone praising the former PTTS sponsor for its prompt decision to end its affiliation with the tournament.

On February 4 the PTTS cited what Mercurio called “the persistent challenging economic operating environment” when it broke the news it was cancelling all but one of its women’s tournaments slated for 2013. The decision to abandon the women’s events came in the aftermath of Costa’s withdrawal and eight days prior to Tires Plus official announcement it was pulling the sponsorship plug. Sarasota-based Andros Boatworks ended its PTTS affiliation in June.

Save The Tarpon’s supporters reacted quickly and positively to news of Tires Plus Total Car Care’s decision to end its PTTS sponsorship. The company’s withdrawal was first announced to Save The Tarpon’s more than 10,600 followers on Facebook.

“This is where I will buy tires from here on!” Gregg Rodier wrote, just one of dozens of comments posted to the page. All echoed a similar theme. From Don Gable: “Thanks Tire Plus! Great move to preserve a great treasure!” Ditto Shane Sovan: “Way to make the right call!” And Vicki Lapple Hensley added: “Good going, now I might shop there again.” Save The Tarpon supporters have also posted comments praising the company’s decision on the Tires Plus Facebook page.

Facebook follower Ryan Hawks proclaimed “Victory!” and was among many who asked “Who’s next?” Stay tuned, Ryan. Stay tuned.

 

Boycott Tires Plus Total Car Care

Boycott Tires Plus - Total Car Care(UPDATE: You did it! Tires Plus Total Car Care has announced it is ending its sponsorship of the PTTS. See related story.)

Tires Plus Total Car Care is a high-profile Professional Tarpon Tournament Series sponsor. Its brand is associated with the tournament’s so-called “Tires Plus Release Team,” also known as the “Tires Plus Drag and Dump Crew” for its documented practice of dragging near-dead tarpon into the deepest part of the Pass and dumping them. In PTTS-speak, this is known as “reviving.” We tend to call it something else: Surgery.

Tires Plus Total Car Care, according to its website, was founded in 1972. Other sources put the date at 1976. In 2000, Tires Plus was sold to Bridgestone/Firestone by founder Tom Gegax. According to the company’s website, Tires Plus is based in Clearwater. Gegax serves as chairman emeritus.

Boycott Tires PlusUnder Gegax, the Tires Plus motto was “Changing the World One Tire at a Time.” This has, apparently, now been updated to “Wiping Out a Species One Tarpon at a Time.” Sponsorship of the PTTS isn’t entirely consistent with Gegax’s most recent interests, however. The former self-described Tires Plus “head coach” is actively involved through his family foundation in a number of conservation causes. Most notably, the Waterkeeper Alliance, a significant player in the aftermath of the April 2010 BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

He is also closely associated with John Robbins, founder of EarthSave, an international non-profit organization. Its stated mission is to raise awareness of “ecological destruction and cruelty.” The PTTS doesn’t quite fit the profile on this one. Mr. Gegax is no longer involved in the day-to-day operation of the company he founded. But his voice still carries substantial influence. He is likely unaware of Tires Plus Total Car Care’s association with the PTTS, and that this association clearly contradicts his otherwise pro-conservation efforts.

This is where your role as educator comes into play. We have every reason to believe Mr. Gegax would be more than a bit distressed to learn of his company’s substantial involvement with an operation like the PTTS. Once he is alerted to the tournament’s history and what the PTTS is doing in his company’s name, it’s a pretty good bet somebody’s phone is going to ring.

Tires Plus Drag And Dump Crew

Keep this in mind should you choose to reach out to Mr. Gegax. Contacting him, however, could be problematic. His Detroit-based Gegax Family Foundation is operated through U.S. Trust. There is no way to directly contact him through his foundation.

Mr. Gegax does, however, apparently have an email address through Tires Plus. It is tomg@tiresplus.com. No guarantees, but it’s certainly worth trying. If you do reach out to him by email, it’s important to remember he is most likely unaware of the PTTS and his company’s involvement. Accordingly, you may wish to provide a link to SaveTheTarpon.com in your correspondence after briefly stating your reason for writing.

Tires Plus Total Car Care can and should be contacted through its website or, if you wish, by phone. Tires Plus Total Car Care Consumer Affairs can be reached at (800) 440-4167. The company can be contacted online (check the box marked “General Comments and Questions) here: http://www.tiresplus.com/contact/.  Another option would be to leave a message on the Tires Plus Facebook Page.

Boycott Tires Plus

Introducing: PTTS Co-Owner, Rodney Taucher

As the adage goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”  This one? Well, it makes us speechless.

Enter Rodney Taucher.

Rodney Taucher - Budget Heating & Air

PTTS Managing Member Rodney Taucher chuckles as he steps on a dead tarpon DNA connected to the PTTS.

For those of you who have not been properly introduced, Rodney Taucher is the newest partner of Silver King Entertainment, LLC, the company responsible for bringing us the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS).

Here is a statement from Joe Mercurio, tournament VP and Manager, dated December 29, 2011:

“In order to properly manage the growth of our organization we needed to grow our staff. For the past 3 years Rodney Taucher has assisted us in organizing our registration process and developing our statistic tracking programs. Rodney’s extensive knowledge of online media, computer programming, and his business organization skills has helped us get better. It’s for these reasons that we have invited Rodney to become an equal partner with the Ingman family and Joe Mercurio. This new partnership should strengthen the corporation and allow for future expansion.”

Rodney Taucher, Owner, Budget Heating & Air

Owner of the PTTS and BudgetHeating.com (Budget Heating & Air Conditioning Inc.)

In addition to his co-ownership of the PTTS, Rodney also owns Budget Heating & Air Conditioning Inc. (BudgetAir.com), a PTTS team sponsor. You can find them on our boycott list.

So now that you’ve been introduced, lets get back to this heart-warming photo showing a jovial Rodney Taucher, co-owner of the PTTS, carelessly propping his foot upon a dead Silver King on the shore of Boca Grande. Oh yea, and sporting his official PTTS Tires Plus Release Team jersey no less.

At the time this photo was taken, Week #2 of the PTTS was underway. It was May 27, 2012 and the Women’s Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (WPTTS) had just taken place the previous day.  This tarpon was found floating in Boca Grande Pass by a FIT researcher who towed it to the beach to retrieve the eyes for her tarpon retinal research.  She submitted a scale to FWRI for the DNA sample.  Months later, the DNA results were released and linked this dead tarpon to Capt. Troy Sapp of Team Yamaha.  The tarpon had been caught during Week #2 of the WPTTS by Team Yamaha having been unnecessarily gaffed, dragged, hoisted from the water, dragged again and killed for the sake of TV face time for the high profile team sponsor.

As the researcher was taking her samples, a young boy walked up, drawn by the opportunity to see this magnificent fish close-up. He was distraught and actually wept at the sight of this 50 or 60 year old animal lost forever.  Yet, Rodney Taucher, PTTS co-owner, felt it was appropriate to use it as a foot stool.  This telling reaction further solidifies what those local to the Boca Grande area have known about PTTS owners and management  for a long while.

Capt Troy Sapp's Dead Tarpon

A young boy weeps at the sight of a dead tarpon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Busted! DNA test links gutted, dead tarpon to PTTS

Capt. T.J. Stewart of Team Castaway Charters and Edgewater Boats is a proud Professional Tarpon Tournament Series competitor. In fact, Stewart brought home first place in this year’s June 17 PTTS “Tarpon Cup,” the tournament’s Must See TV season-ending championship event. For his efforts, Skeeter boats forked over the keys to a brand new ZX-22 “Bay” with a Yamaha SHO strapped to the stern.

Stewart’s equally proud of his contributions to the ongoing Mote Marine/FWC DNA study. In fact, Stewart was recently recognized as one of Florida’s “top 10” DNA samplers. It’s a pretty straight-forward business. Anglers “swab” their tarpon, including those caught during PTTS events, and send the samples off to St. Petersburg where scientists do their science thing.

Dead Gutted PTTS Tarpon

This 124-pound tarpon, found gutted and floating in the Gulf of Mexico on June 4. It was cut open in a failed attempt to send the fish to the bottom so it couldn’t be DNA tested and traced back to the PTTS. This fish, with belly intact, had been sampled the previous day at the PTTS scales.

Just as Stewart did two weeks earlier when he boated, gaffed, dragged, hoisted and weighed a 124-pounder. “You just gotta try and take care of this fish, that’s why we’re here and … there’s nothing better.” Stewart’s tarpon was DNA sampled, of course, by the Florida Wildlife Research Institute. The next morning, Stewart’s fish was sampled again. But this time, Stewart’s fish was dead.

Very dead, in fact. Stewart’s 124-pounder was found floating near Boca Grande Pass in the Gulf of Mexico, a few hundred yards from shore. Last seen being hauled away from the scales behind the Sea Hunt-sponsored, “Tires Plus Release Team” boat, the “revived” fish had been gutted from tip to tail in an obvious attempt to send it to the bottom. A second DNA sample was taken. This, too, was sent to St. Pete.

Researchers say DNA doesn’t lie. There’s no question the gutted fish photographed and swabbed on June 4 was the same fish caught, swabbed and given to the PTTS “Tires Plus Release Team” on June 3 by Team Castaway Charters and Edgewater Boats. To be revived, or so the PTTS claims.

“I don’t know why they would do that,” said FWRI Assistant Research Scientist Kathy Guindon. “I don’t know why they wouldn’t give the fish a chance to survive.” Guindon agreed it was likely Stewart’s tarpon was gutted after being turned over to the Tires Plus “Release Team.” Hiding the evidence? After viewing photos of Stewart’s eviscerated fish, Guindon said what happened to the tarpon wasn’t nature’s doing. It was intentional. And it wasn’t shown to the basic cable audience.

Early results of this year’s study show six fish that were originally DNA sampled during the tournament’s 2012 season were caught or found at a later date. Four, including the one that had been gutted after being placed in the care of the Tires Plus “Release Team,” were dead. Guindon characterized a fifth fish as “suspicious.” Guindon told Save The Tarpon that “research results did show the weighed in fish are more physiologically stressed. One can presume that mortality rates are higher in these weighed-in, longer-handled fish.”

PTTS Team Edgewater Boats Castaway Charters

With Capt. TJ Stewart at the helm, Team Castaway Charters/Edgewater Boats fights the tarpon that would be found gutted and floating June 4 in the Gulf of Mexico near the mouth of Boca Grande Pass.

The covert PTTS fish-gutting revealed by the DNA samples in the FWRI’s possession likely took place virtually under the noses of the same researchers the PTTS claims to support. In September, PTTS television host and spokesman Joe Mercurio stood in front of the seven FWC commissioners and boasted “the PTTS has worked closely with biologists from (the) Fish and Wildlife Institute to make sure we all benefit from the best science available.”

We know better. The FWC now knows better. It has the evidence. And there’s no way the PTTS can really get around this one. When that 124-pound tarpon’s guts were cut open, it wasn’t done for science. It wasn’t the “PTTS working closely with biologists.” It wasn’t “to make sure we all benefit from the best science available.” It was a desperate attempt to keep a lie alive. Or, as Mercurio wrote the day following Stewart’s “Tarpon Cup” victory: “We would like to especially thank the release teams that did such an amazing job releasing these tarpon healthy.”

Joe, look at the photo.

If you appreciate the work we are doing here at Save the Tarpon, please consider donating a few bucks and following us on Facebook. As a volunteer not-for-profit, we depend on contributions and Friends to help spread the word about this important cause.  Even as little as $5.00 helps out!

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Letter to the Sponsors of the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS)

Below is a copy of a letter which went out today to a few of the major sponsors of the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS).  If you have a moment, please take a moment to write some of these sponsors as well.
Dana.Metz@tiresplus.com
Don.Becker@tiresplus.com
Jeremy.Persinger@tiresplus.com
Stuart.Watterson@tiresplus.com
dale_barnes@yamaha-motor.com
ben_speciale@yamaha-motor.com
aperkinson@costadelmar.com
cmacdonald@costadelmar.com
Nehl.Horton@millercoors.com
Andrew.England@millercoors.com
rick.gomez@millercoors.com
We have written you previous emails informing you that there exists a growing public backlash against the PTTS and its highly destructive fishing and handling techniques. Today there are many, many newspaper articles being written, online sites and blogs are humming, communities are organizing, sponsors are withdrawing, petitions and bumper stickers are appearing and a plane flew a negative banner over the PTTS events. We had informed you this might grow into a real brushfire. It is starting. A boycott of your product is now being advocated. Your brand will be caught up in this whirlwind and it will not be positive for your image, nor your sales. Your brand is generally respected, but now the wider boating and fishing community is turning against you as a management, and against your product because you are supporting and thus condoning the PTTS. The controversy is becoming self sustaining.
Again we ask that you consider the consequences. If you have questions, suggestions or need more information about the real and potential damages caused by the PTTS,
Mark Futch has asked that you contact him directly. Mark Futch is the Secretary of the respected Boca Grande Fishing Guides Association.
PTTS Sponsor Boycott
Captain Mark Futch
Cell: (941) 740-0662
bgseaplane@gmail.com
www.bocagrandefishing.com