Thursday, May 21, 2009

"Are You Man Enough Shark Challenge" changed to a total Catch and Release tournament

As you can see from the letter below - a lot of people came together for a common purpose, a common goal...and while as individuals we whisper, as a group we are heard. This is a great accomplishment - a big thank you to all those involved!

Gary and Brenda Adkison:

"Dear Friends,
It was just announced a few moments ago that the Ft. Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce and its City Commissioners all voted unanimously to immediately change the upcoming "Are You Man Enough Shark Challenge" to a total Catch and Release tournament with chase boats and live streaming video beamed back to television monitors at the tournament headquarters!

There will be no "shark kill" tournament!

This came just days before a large organized shark conservation and education protest was scheduled this weekend in front of the tournament headquarters. It has been confirmed that the sponsoring business owners were virtually unanimous in their support as well and actually had decided to make the tournament "catch and release" just hours prior to the commission vote.

Margret Meade once said, "Never doubt that a group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world.......indeed it is the only thing that ever has!"
There are many heroes in this effort and hundreds of individuals behind the scenes who helped make this environmental victory possible. Those hundreds of you who took the time to write an e mail and voice your concern to the tournament organizers fueled the fire!

Penny Miller who networked and boldly wrote Governor Crist's office and the Ft Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce in Florida strongly voicing her anger at this throwback to an African Big Game Hunting mentality!

Mary O'Malley and Lupo who were relentless in their pursuit of information on the "toxic" shark meat that was ostensibly being given to the homeless in an effort to "spin" killing sharks into a "positive justification" by the tournament organizers. They uncovered the falsehood that the Salvation Army had not even been contacted at all this year by the tournament organizers as advertised on their web page and they did not even want the meat in the first place....toxic or not!

Lawrence Groth who is a tenacious truth seeker that never gave up and pursued sponsors, tournament organizers, wrote blogs and even went "undercover" to film the "secret" shark kill tournament in Sarasota last week and planned the protest event on the Ft Myers side.

Neil Hammerschlag whose academic candor roused the environmental spirit of young supporters and helped turn the Commissioners around and to ultimately get the vote in favor of the sharks passed in commission chambers!

The scientific intervention by Dr. Sonny Gruber of the Bimini Field Station/University of Miami fame and Dr. Bob Heuter, Director of Mote Marine Lab in Sarasota lent credibility and sound insight to this project's goal and gave the tournament organizers a viable alternative to still making a success of a Catch and Release tournament.

And of all the bloggers around the world, Mike Neumann, Patric Douglas, Wolfgang Leander, Heidi Coluzzi and dozens of others on all continents, who raised their voices in protest and demanded environmental reason to prevail.....

Thank you one and all! The sharks won this one today....thanks to a unified effort by everyone. Now with this momentum let us not allow it to fade. Let us all continue to pick the battles and take every opportunity to make a difference for the shark globally. Our children are counting on it....and our planet can not survive without our collective conscience.

The former president of the Nature Conservancy, John Sawhill once said..."in the end, our society will be defined....not only for what we created....but for what we refused to destroy....!


Gary and Brenda Adkison
Directors Shark Foundation,
USA 954 554 8918"


JadieNay said...

The only thing that stopped the Are You Man Enough Shark Challenge from killing sharks was a fake email being sent to a radical commissioner. You say this is a win for sharks... I say this is a lose for democracy. First of all, the shark challenge would have killed, at most as defined by tournament rules, 5 sharks. More sharks kill each other each day. Now, look at what REALLY happened for this tournament in a different light. A man is selling shoes, and his shoes contain leather. A "community activist" decides to email a vegan commissioner, who then goes into a media frenzy and bullies, threatens, and spreads out-and-out lies about the shoe-salesman until he is forced to stop selling leather shoes. His shop goes down and he ends up in a very bad position, when all he wanted to do was sell a good product.
The shark challenge was not about killing shark, or declaring they are monsters. It was just about selling a product. I was at the festival, and I saw many people asking where the shark were. They wanted to see the shark, and when they found out there wouldn't be any, they walked out of the festival, taking their money with them. Who wins here? The protesters who get to feel like they "did something." Who loses? The tournament director, his family, the vendors, the Baywalk Group, the restaurants and shops in the area, and the anglers who paid good money to be into a tournament that was changed at the last minute. Who doesn't care either way? The shark population and the ecologists who aren't on bunnyhugger payroll.
But don't worry. The general attitude at Sharkfest from the vendors and patrons was that the "stupid protesters and the biased commissioner" took away a big part of what makes the tournament fun, and if they had known what was going on, they would have put their two cents in, too. Let's see how things go next year, eh? Do you really think you can fight this fight against everyone else who knows better?
I do have to give you credit, though. You got what you wanted. You prevented the tournament from killing what would have been 1-3 shark this year. You lied, you slandered, and then you patted yourselves on the back. Good job, guys.

Felix Leander said...

Hi Jadie - thank you for your comment - I would appreciate it if you could provide more information on the fake email that was sent to a radical commissioner. This is news to me and if there was any foul play involved I would like to mention it here.

As far as the rest of your comments - I find it pretty sad that people come to your tournaments and support businesses to look at dead sharks - not sustainable and very short term minded.

You also say that showing the dead sharks is "fun" - what is so fun about this?

Instead of discussing what was done wrong and then threatening about what next year will bring - why do you not instead provide a solution that is amicable to all...I find it hard to believe that the tourism and businesses of Ft. Myers Beach depends one tournament that shows off dead sharks.

I am open to suggestions and know that "radical protesting" is not always the long term solution either.

JadieNay said...

Regarding the fake email... The media frenzy that occurred 2 weeks ago was caused by Ray Judah publicly announcing that the tournament was barbaric and would detract from tourism. He got this idea because someone in Germany sent him an email stating they would never visit FM Beach because of the tournament. A week later, we found out the email was actually from someone in the Sharksafe group, but by then the decision had been made and there was nothing we could do about it. The only reason the tournament director bowed out of the kill aspect was because Mr. Judah was making such outlandish statements in the news and making the tournament look barbaric, when in truth it is highly regulated. The tournament committee had no choice but to make it no-kill in order to keep the peace and avoid misinformed protesters from causing a riot at the event (though the sheriff's department needed to be called anyway because protesters were harassing the tournament staff).
You may think it is sad that people would be attracted to come to a street festival to see a dead shark, but that's just a fact of life. Ask any kid (not yours) if they want to go see a big shark on a crane and you know they'll say yes. Same thing for tourists visiting from the landlocked states or just any regular joe on the street, for that matter. Say it's sad all you want but you're living in Utopia if you think that just by getting one tournament to go CPR you're going to make people not want to see a shark. And personally, I'd say holding a tournament and then showcasing the winner is very sustainable. We're already on our 3rd year and we're growing by leaps and bounds every year.
I'm all for animal rights, to be perfectly honest. I haven't eaten fish since I was a small child or meat since high school. I don't think it's fun to see a dead animal up on a crane. A lot of people do, though. The anglers like to show off and the patrons like to see something out of the ordinary.
I agree that the businesses and tourism do not rely on this one tournament, but they do rely on events like this one. Street fairs and fishing tournaments are what makes FM Beach so popular, and the Baywalk Group, from what I understand, was using this event as a pilot for future events they may be planning. I can assure you Mr. Judah received plenty of phone calls from officials from FM Beach because they knew that bringing a big event like this one to the area would be good for the community. The bay side of FM Beach does not get a lot of business, they need all the help and publicity they can get. I know I'm not the only person who didn't know how good those restaurants, shops, and hotels really are. The festival brought me down there and now I plan to return on my own. This tournament is known nationwide among serious anglers, and bringing it to FM Beach obviously increases the renown of the area. So, no, the businesses don't RELY on us, but we sure do help. Aside from that, we had over 60 vendors who did rely on the success of this particular tournament.

JadieNay said...

I never threatened anything as far as next year goes, I simply informed you that you may have had the element of surprise this year, but next year will be a different story. Who knows what will happen, I can't tell the future.
As far as a compromise goes... well, go to any other shark tournament with a kill aspect. You'll see very quickly that not only would the AYME Tournament have been highly regulated, but also extremely respectful to the shark. If someone wanted to bring back a shark, they had to have it approved by the tournament committee. The tournament committee would only allow about 5 shark to be brought back throughout the entire tournament. The shark had to meet size requirements. The tournament was held AFTER sharks' gestation period, so it is less likely to be pregnant when caught. The anglers could not use bangsticks, guns, or harpoons to land a shark, so it is far less likely for an angler to even get it. The anglers must call in the shark before they land it, as soon as they hook up, so that no extra shark are killed and then thrown back (something Sharksafe incorrectly claimed would occur). If anyone caught a shark and brought it back without approval from the committee, they were disqualified. The shark must be properly cared for immediately upon landing so that the meat was safe to eat. I don't know where Sharksafe got the idea that the Salvation Army did not want the meat, because they were very excited to get it the past 2 years (we have pictures to prove it) and as soon as the tournament was forced to go CPR, they contacted the tournament director and expressed they were very upset they would not be receiving the meat, which was enough to feed hundreds of homeless people. You say one of your guys went "undercover" to the Sarasota tournament, so you must have seen that they had dozens of shark brought back, and when they were done with their tournament, the shark went in the trash. Why did you waste your resources on AYME when there's something far worse going on down the road? We already compromised when we started the tournament. We met with ecologists to ensure that the event would bring back as few shark as possible while still maintaining the spirit of the tournament. There was nothing left for you to take away from the tournament except for the kill aspect altogether. And look how much good that did you. You saved 2 or 3 sharks, lost credibility, and now you're "the stupid protesters."

Felix Leander said...

Very interesting information - I was not aware of this - would have been nice to know before.

I still need to disagree on the show dead sharks to kids and people from middle America - show them a live one instead and stop feeding off the fear people have of sharks. The tournament name alone - are you man enough, with a huge white shark opening its mouth and the soundtrack of Jaws makes this tournament seem anything but what you say...

Why was all this information on the regulations not listed clearly on the site?

You may say one or two sharks don't make a different - I think it does. At the very least the tournament could have helped change the image of sharks...and I am not sure what you meant by the tournament being sustainable (unless of course you are talking business-wise)

Just to be clear - I am not affiliated to any group / non-profit / association - I am independent and am not part of Shark Safe - as you keep referring to me.

Was I there to support this cause - yes...did I spend money in Ft Myers Beach - yes...would I promote FT Myers Beach in the future - yes

Finally - I would still like to hear a solution that would make both parties happy...that would help for upcoming events - not just in Ft. Myers

JadieNay said...

I got all the information about the regulations from , the official website of the tournament. If you weren't able to find them, you were probably on the sharkfest2009 website, which was the official street fair website. After the tournament director realized how serious the radicals were getting, he added the "Our Eco-Outlook" page, which assures sitegoers that the tournament rules have been reviewed by ecologists and puts the tournament into perspective as far as legal limits go. The Sharksafe group took this as a sign of weakness and ridiculed him for it without reading the page.
The regulations themselves are not on the site anymore, since the kill aspect was removed from the tournament, but another place you can find the abbreviated regulations is in a news article that was published the same day Mr. Judah went on his tirade.
Obviously, nobody read it.

As far as displaying a live shark, it is a bit impossible to catch a shark in the wild and keep it alive in order to bring it back to the harbor for display. The shark would likely be mistreated, and die slowly before arriving at the harbor. There is one "shark act" in America right now, a pair of divers who keep nurse shark in a tank constructed out of an 18-wheeler. Nurse shark are not allowed to be caught or used in the tournament, so it would have been inappropriate. On top of that, the street fair was only 2 blocks, there was no room for a huge 18-wheel tank.
The festival did have plenty of educational basis to it. The Shark Brothers had one of the biggest booths at the event in the prime location, and it was highly publicized that they would be there. The Shark Brothers held a seminar on both days about sharks and shark conservation and had their booth available all day. The Ostego Bay Marine Foundation was also available right next to the Shark Brothers with their educational materials. On top of that, there was an educational booklet in the Ft Myers Observer the Wednesday before the event that was sanctioned by Sharkfest and handed out at the event as fliers.
The design of the website, logo, and t-shirts can be attributed to the tournament director's personality and the nature of the event. The concept "Are you man enough" came from the idea that sharks are powerful creatures, not that they are monsters. Nowhere in any literature is it stated or even alluded to that the director hates sharks or thinks they should be destroyed. It's simply a matter of people trying to prove that they can take on a powerful animal. Compare it to men who go into the woods and wrestle bears. They don't do it because they hate the bear, they just want to prove they are macho. Showing a loving, friendly shark in the materials wouldn't be portraying the nature of the event. I'd like to point out that the logo doesn't show sharks attacking anyone. It's more about them flexing their muscles. A professional wrestler will put on his scary makeup and flex his big muscles on television, but sensible people know that he's not going to go on a killing spree. A prime example that the image of sharks as powerful creatures does not scare people but just makes them more intriguing is that the Shark Brothers, who have dedicated their lives to these animals, first gained their interest in them by watching the movie Jaws as children.

JadieNay said...

I had assumed you were affiliated with Sharksafe because this blog is no more than a copy of their letter. Either way, you are a supporter, and your blog is the second website that comes up in a google search for the tournament, after the official website. Your name is known to the tournament committee for this blog, and you support Sharksafe's actions.
I've already addressed that there is no solution to be reached because the tournament committee had already discussed compromises with other shark conservation groups. "There is always a radical fringe, and you can't please everyone."
Even PETA has called truces with some fast food restaurants, knowing they won't be able to stop them altogether. Instead, they work with the restaurants to maintain regulation and to prevent animal cruelty. They target places that are grossly negligent of the animals while leaving alone the ones that follow their guidelines. This tournament is not going away, and by pissing off the tournament director, the Sharksafe group and the rest of the radicals have lost their voice when it comes to making tournament decisions. The tournament has already reached solutions with the animal rights activists that work with the tournament rather than against it.
Here's a question... if the tournament had started out with the intention of killing as many shark as possible and as portraying shark as monsters, would you not agree that a compromise had already been made? Like I said, the intent of the kill aspect of the tournament is to maintain the spirit of the tournament while also ensuring that as few shark are brought back as possible and that they are treated as respectfully as possible. More sharks kill each other each day than would have been killed in the tournament. It's a trade-off. Save 2 or 3 sharks, or allow the event to be as successful as possible in order to help the economy of FM Beach.

This tournament could have been held up as an example of responsible fishermen still able to have their fun. The Sharksafe group (and their supporters) could have even had a booth at the event if they had worked with the tournament rather than against it. Instead the radicals have demonized the event that the general public, ecologists, and other tournament directors found to be an extremely responsible event. The Sharksafe group and their supporters have now lost their credibility and their power to stop or alter other events that are far less eco-friendly. They celebrated their "victory" when in fact all it did was make animal rights activists look very bad and discourage other tournament directors from working with any ecologists.

And, since you got your disclaimer, I'd just like to say also that I'm not affiliated with or speaking on behalf of the tournament. I just happen to know Jack and saw what he was put through by the Sharksafe group and their supporters. He hasn't read these blog comments and has not approved them.

Felix Leander said...

Let me know if you can and want meet-up, shoot me an email to