January 20, 2023
By Joshua Bergan
UPDATE: The organizers have postponed the tournament.
Local fishing guides, guides’ associations and science and education non-profits have called upon organizers of a proposed for-profit tarpon fishing tournament to be held in southern Florida to abandon the event, citing concerns about exploitation of the iconic species. The Sports Fishing Championship Tarpon Championship Series (SFCTCS), which is slated for three locations along Florida’s southwest Gulf Coast, will have cash prizes, be televised on CBS, and was planned without the input of the local fish-conservation community.
The Florida Keys Fishing Guides Association, the Lower Keys Guides Association, and Boca Grande Fishing Guide's Association claim that local stakeholders were not consulted regarding their concerns or interests, and that the tournament is designed to make money from a shared and fragile resource. Though the fishing groups eventually met with tournament organizers, they claim the meeting was an “an 11th-hour attempt to remedy inherent flaws and community opposition and failed to address the core issue.”
“Local guides were never consulted or listened to regarding their interests or concerns about a for profit, unaccountable, highly visible media product that impacts the resource on which they, and indeed, their communities depend,” the associations said in a statement. “This flaw is unfixable. It has already occurred and will always conflict with our position that we do not want this tournament and believe its impact is contrary to the interests of conservation and local-stakeholder-driven management.”
Tarpon tournaments are occasionally sanctioned by local fishing guides and associations, but these tournaments take into account stakeholders’ concerns, prioritize conservation, and benefit local interests and conservation non-profits.
The SFCTCS is scheduled to take place over three weekends in March and April out of Islamorada, Punta Gorda, and Sarasota.
“Fishermen, scientists, and policy makers are making great strides to work together to establish trust and find solutions to the challenges facing our marine resources,” the statement continued. “The shared interest approach to fisheries management, science-based strategy, and resolute stakeholder leadership are making enormous impacts… We are resolved in our opposition to the SFC and will work with our members, partners, elected officials, and relevant government agencies to resist the TCS in any maturation and continue advocating for science supported, local stakeholder driven conservation of our marine resources.”
Joshua Bergan is Fly Fisherman’s digital editor.