More Spectacle Than Sport
The Boston Big Game Fishing Club Monster Shark Tournament has worn out its welcome, not only in the host town of Oak Bluffs, but on the Vineyard altogether.
It is hard to know precisely when the tournament changed from a sport fishing event to a spectacle on the Oak Bluffs harborfront with dead, bloody sharks hung from hooks for weighing. Some say it was the year the television cameras for ESPN arrived, thrusting the tournament — and again the Vineyard — into an unwelcome national spotlight.
The bloody spectacle that it has become is reason enough to bid the tournament farewell. But it is not the only reason.
The tournament effectively takes over the harborfront and nearby public parkland on one of the busiest weekends of the summer. Year-round and summer neighbors of Sunset Park in Oak Bluffs are understandably unhappy over the annual invasion. This year, the tournament announced plans to use nearby Washington Park, disturbing even more residents.
When the town selectmen, in a split vote, decided against granting a one-day liquor license to the shark tournament, Mr. James responded with threats. He threatened to move the tournament to private property elsewhere in Oak Bluffs, or to another Island town altogether. He threatened to sue the town, the same place that has graciously provided him with its parks and harborfront to make money year after year. He claims that Oak Bluffs is discriminating against fishermen in general and shark fishermen in particular.
Such claims are ridiculous. Compare the monster shark tournament with another, much larger fishing tournament that is held each year in the fall: the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby. The derby attracts thousands of fishermen to the Vineyard for a monthlong event that provides a significant boost to the shoulder season economy. And the derby also gives back — among other things providing thousands of dollars in college scholarship money each year for graduating Vineyard seniors.
What does Mr. James give back to the Vineyard? Nothing.
Leaving aside the question whether shark tournaments are even a good idea in the first place, given the important role that the fish play at the top of the fisheries food chain, the truth is that the Monster Shark tournament has become more trouble than it’s worth.
There are many other healthier and more family-friendly ways to draw extra visitors in mid-July to Oak Bluffs, if that is what the town wants. And there are plenty of mainland coastal towns that would be willing, even eager, to host the Monster Shark tournament. Let Mr. James go there.