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Montauk Shark Tournament Coverage
By Jason Heller, June 21, 2008 @ 02:00 AM (EST)

As most of our readers know, we have previously reported our intended coverage and call to action against the Montauk Shark Tournament and the subsequent death threats we have received. The authorities have been involved, and thank you for those who expressed concern. The local papers even caught wind of the situation. We are serious New Yorkers who are not afraid of standing up for what we believe in...and the public is taking note, slowly but surely. CNN just covered another shark tournament asking viewers "Sport of animal abuse?".  


Montauk Shark TournamentOn June 14, 2008 we headed out to Montauk, New York to cover the 22nd annual Montauk Shark Tournament at the Star Island Yacht Club. Montauk is located in the Hamptons (although technically not a “Hampton”) at the end of Long Island, about a 3 hour drive from New York City. It’s actually a quaint, laid back and beautiful beach getaway for New Yorkers that I’ve visited for many years. I’ve known about the Montauk shark fishing tournament for years, but never understood the scale and gravity of the event prior to being contacted by the Humane Society of America. This is arguably the largest shark tournament in the US, rivaled possibly only by the Oak Bluffs tournament held in Martha’s Vineyard. In 2007 the Humane Society successfully shut down another large American shark tournament in Destin Florida. During the 2006 event, a mutilated Hammerhead shark was put on display as children watched in horror. The board of directors of the Destin shark tournament were shamed by the negative publicity generated by the Humane Society, Star Island Yacht Clubjournalists, and other concerned citizens. As they say, an image is worth a thousand words, and thankfully the Destin tournament ceased to exist. The organizers of the Montauk shark tournament must have taken this fact to heart, and confronted all the photographers shooting the event and threatened to remove us from the event because it was in fact held on private property. Remember the old adage “any publicity is good publicity”? Well, apparently not for shark tournaments.




Calcutta Prize Shark Tournament
$761,700 was the prize pool for the "Calcutta Prizes", which is essentially
the equivalent of horse betting. Only, no sharks win this race.
Montauk Shark Fin
A shark's tail fin was cut off and immediately passed around to
show the impressionable children who jammed the front row

Montauk Shark FinIt was Father’s Day weekend at the Montauk shark tournament. Parents brought their children to stand in the front row to witnesses the brutal mutilation of these beautiful, perfectly designed animals. Many of the children, still very young and innocent, observed the massacre with looks that I can only define as equal part fear and curiosity. Of course there were some that think slicing sharks open end to end, watching the blood drain out on the pier and tossing most of the body parts in a bull dozer for removal is “cool”. But the reality is that they are doing so with an endorsement from their parents that this brutal act is morally acceptable. Would these parents allow their young children to watch hunters bring in deer or cattle for public beheading and dismemberment? Throughout the day the emcee also handed out coloring books to the kids, and announced facts about each species of shark. Ultimately this would be the only “education” that these young impressionable minds would receive regarding the sharks that they witnessed being butchered.








Star Island Montauk Shark Tournament

This year the winning catch was a beautiful 353 pound thresher shark. Most of the sharks entered were thresher, blue or mako sharks. Two tiger sharks weighing in at 436 pounds and 515 pounds respectively were brought in too late to be entered into the competition. Rumor has it that ironically the boat was caught in a discarded fishing net and hence the late arrival. From my questioning the fishermen, they all caught and released an exponentially greater number of sharks than would be brought back to shore. Only the largest would be entered into the Star ISland Yacht Club Shark Tournamentcompetition. A quick scan of online fishing forums confirms that up 20 blue sharks were caught and released by many boats prior to deciding on which specimen to enter into the tournament. Of course most of these sharks would later die, despite the claim by tournament organizers that catch & release is an ethical activity. I must admit that after speaking with the fishermen, they are not blood thirsty killers or twisted unmoral people. They are regular Joes like you and me, and are simply ignorant to the plight of these animals. To them, sharks are simply big fish that are plentiful and on the earth for man to eat. Yet, these creatures are no longer plentiful, nor is the intention of their removal providing sustenance. Shark tournaments simply provide the thrill of a hunt, and prizes for the largest carcass. To combat this perception the tournaments publicly offer some of the edible sharks to local churches and food banks. One of the largest, Long Island Cares, has formally turned down the free offerings due to the unethical way in which the food is acquired. The tournaments also provide shark researches with access to the sharks in order to record information on size, diet and population, but the researchers confirm that this data can be acquired otherwise.


Montauk Shark Tournament
The irony of the "Marine Research Tagging Program" t-shirt...this is not tagging!


The Real Life Jaws

Montauk Shark TournamentThe character Quint from the movie Jaws was based on Frank Mundas, a shark hunter from Montauk, New York, who holds the record for the largest great white shark ever caught – a 4,500 pounder in 1964. Captain Mundus was in attendance at the 2008 Montauk shark tournament, selling autographed pictures and promoting a new fishing hook that he claims would be safer for the large number of sharks that are caught and released. Many of the released sharks will die from injuries caused by being hooked, often having these hooks lodged in Humane Society Montauk Shark Tournamenttheir stomachs or ripping their face and jaws apart, which prevents the ability to eat. Captain Mundas himself attests to this fact. Admission of some of the issues is the beginning of a solution. One of the bystanders at the Montauk shark tournament commented that she was excited because she has never seen a live shark before, well, that fact hasn’t changed after the tournament.



Shark Tournaments in America

100 million to 1 - This is the ratio of sharks to humans killed by one another in 2007. The average number of human fatalities for the last two decades, per the International Shark Attack File, was five. Compare that to the average of eighteen annual fatalities from dogs, and you have more to fear from Fido than you do from Jaws. However, the movie Jaws will forever hold its place as a cultural legend and has led to the demonization and decimation Montauk Shark Tournamentof a species that is essential for the world’s largest ecosystem that we depend on to function properly. Since the 1975 release of Jaws, the media has sensationalized shark attacks. If a tourist gets mauled by a grizzly bear in the woods, society doesn’t blame the bear – we may have Yogi or Smokey to thank for that image. But if you step foot in the ocean and get bit by a shark, a media outcry and ratings grab ensues. Although there has been an increase in documented shark attacks over time, it does not represent an increase in shark populations. In fact quite the opposite is true. This statistic represents the ever growing human population and the amount of time we spend in the ocean. Additionally, the information age has brought about a more efficient process of reporting and documenting these instances, so in reality these numbers may have even dropped over time due to historical under reporting. There is no way to truly claim accuracy in historical figures. What we do know is that certain shark species have been depleted by over 90% in the last several decades, so a decline in incidents is possible. Governments around the world are introducing and approving legislation to limit and even ban shark fishing, such as the recently passed 2008 Shark Conservation Act in the US. In an era of environmental need, the media and humanity may claim to think green, but we are failing at our responsibility to prevent history from repeating itself, still approaching every ecosystem with the mindset of eminent domain. The thousands of sharks caught in the summertime tournaments up and down the eastern seaboard is a testament to that.


Humane Society Montauk Shark Tournament
The Humane Society of the United States flew a banner around the area
all day long calling to "End The Cruel Shark Tournament Now!"

The Humane Society hopes to be successful at shutting
down yet another large shark tournament

Scientists and researchers have increasingly looked to scuba divers and underwater photographers the world over as additional eyes and ears into the ocean. We are becoming more active and involved in creating awareness of the plight and decimation of global shark populations. Sharks are particularly important because they are a vital apex predator, and depending on your perspective, they are either part of the balanced equation of natural Star Island Montauk Shark Tournamentselection or part of the ‘intelligent design’ of the world. The primary focal issue regarding sharks is the illegal and unethical trade of their valuable fins, demand of which is driven primarily from Asia. The status symbol that shark fin soup represents has become increasingly accessible by a growing middle and upper class throughout Asia. A significant portion of the supply of shark fin is often from South & Central American waters, where year after year millions of sharks are finned alive and thrown back into the ocean to die a slow and violent death. The recent movie Shark Water documented the alleged involvement of the Hong Kong and Taiwanese mafia. The shark fin trade today is the equivalent of the ivory trade prior to the 1989 ban, which has since protected the animals that produce it.

However, there is another danger looming for sharks right in our own back yards – the American shark tournaments. These events glorify the violent death of the largest, healthiest individuals from local populations. Combine this with slow reproductive maturity, a small number of offspring, additional removal from the ecosystem due to commercial by-catch, sport fishing, and illegal finning, and the result is a recipe for disaster for these vital apex predators. Even the shark fishermen themselves will be the first to admit that year after year the size of the sharks they haul in have been shrinking progressively.


When we see a shark removed from the ocean and killed, we see the perceived threat, created by the media, eliminated. It is important to maintain the balance of the food chain by redirecting our fears and recognizing that they are unwarranted. Rather than arrogantly assuming the ocean is the domain of man, we must respect the animals that represent our future. We should only be afraid when they disappear, because we may be next.


Get Involved - Document The Carnage At Other Tournaments




  • The 36th Annual Freeport Hudson Anglers Tournament will be held on Saturday June 21, 2008 at the Guy Lombardo Marina Freeport, Long Island, New York.

  • The Oaks Bluff Tournament will be held on July 17 - 19, on Martha's Vineyard Island, Mass.

  • Here a list of other tournaments


Boycott the sponsors of these tournaments. Most are fishing related companies, but so far we have also discovered Captial One, Miller Lite, and Trump's Marina Casino Hotel - SHAME ON THEM! Boycott these brands! We have also just discovered that Quiznos & ESPN2 have a smoke & mirrors shark tournament series called "Quiznos Madfin" that claims to be friendly to the sharks because it is all catch & release. Boycott Quiznos & ESPN! Since Disney owns ESPN, dump Disney stock and tell everyone you know who cares about the ocean and the environment do the same - let's get serious about this!

Support the ocean by writing letters. Quiznos must back out of the ESPN2 "Madfin" shark tournament. It is unacceptable. Email Quiznos here.

ESPN is owned by Disney, we must let them know that this is unacceptable and that we will dump their stock and persuade as many others to do so as well. Email Disney investor relations and let them know how you feel!


Boycott Captial One

Star Island Montauk Shark Tournament Shark Fin
Fins were cut off and separated from the rest of the carcasses.
I can not be certain what was done with them, but I must believe
that many understood the value of selling the fins
Star Island Montauk Shark Tournament - Shark Fins

Star Island Montauk Shark Tournament
The Humane Society provided us with some images from the 2007 event
Star Island Montauk Shark Tournament
Bulldozers and wheel barrels - A shameful and violent end
to the life of these apex predators
Star Island Montauk Shark Tournament - Humane Society of United States
One can only wonder what goes through the minds of
children in these situations
Star Island Montauk Shark Tournament - Humane Society of United States
Although scientists get access to the sharks for research, the method
of acquisition is unnecessary and unjustified
Star Island Montauk Shark Tournament - Humane Society of United States
The aftermath of the violent death of so many sharks
Star Island Montauk Shark Tournament
The crowds do show up for these events. It is reminiscent of a
public hanging from the 17th century
Star Island Montauk Shark Tournament





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mig sono
Jun 21, 2008 12:34 AM
mig sono wrote:

This is an atrocity that needs a lot of coverage. Thank you so much for spending the time to educate yourself passionately about all the complexities revolving this matter and then educating us likewise. The people who put on this tournament need a little wake up call. We live in a new world with depleted resources and life going extinct. We can not afford ourselves such destructive activities on species that are at the top of our food chain. I want to end this on a positive note and hope that we can help make a difference by passing this along.
David Borus
Jun 21, 2008 6:38 AM
David Borus wrote:
Right on Wendy !

There is zero reason to have a competition like this - especially when species are threatened .. and animals being killed far faster than they can every reproduce

We (the collective we) ... are killing the seas

Great reporting .. and

God Bless

David Borus

Carlos I. Hiller
Jun 24, 2008 1:12 AM
Carlos I. Hiller wrote:
Es increible que todavia pueda estar ocurriendo algo asA?A. AdemA?A?s me confirman que el "catch and release" es no aceptable (aunque si un indicador de un principio de conciencia ecologica), ya me preguntaba yo acerca del daA?Ao que se produce en los animales que se devuelven al mar. Los felicito y apoyo totalmente en vuestra posiciA?A?n. Han hecho algo que mucha gente del medio no se anima, que es tomar una posiciA?A?n sA?A?lida y consecuente.AA?AA?AA?Mi total respaldo para ustedes!!!
Wolfgang Leander
Jun 21, 2008 1:57 AM
Wolfgang Leander wrote:
Thank you for covering this barbaric tournament despite the death threats you received. You guys are gutsy - but then again, what else would one expect from confirmed Brooklyners??

Sharks should not be fished for "fun"; catching and releasing them is not good enough. Shark fishing should be banned altogether to protect a species that is at the brink of extinction.

If the so-called 'sports' fishermen would only try to dive or snorkel with sharks they would not want to catch them anymore.
Roger Carlson
Jun 27, 2008 12:51 PM
Roger Carlson wrote:
The number of hours put in, and the number of sharks taken, by commercial fishermen are orders of magnitude greater than this.



Jason Heller
Jun 28, 2008 6:38 AM
Jason Heller wrote:
Clearly commercial shark fishing, by-catch and illegal shark finning are the biggest issues plaguing shark populations. However, the issue is the widespread glorification of killing sharks and the message it sends. We need to create public awareness of the fact that we need these apex predators alive in the oceans to keep the oceans in balance. Although in the grand scheme of things, the number of sharks taken at the tournaments is insignificant, it does add up to thousands of dead sharks. If the 10 biggest tournaments in the Northeast attract about 200 boats, each can catch up to 10 - 20 sharks that are "caught & released" prior to the one they haul in, and at least 50% of the released sharks die (a number confirmed to me by fishermen and scientists alike), you're talking about at least 10,000 sharks killed and removed from the ecosystem.
Richard White
Jun 30, 2008 9:13 AM
Richard White wrote:
Commercial fishing puts the amount of shark taken by these tournaments to shame. It is estimated that only 1-2% of Blue Sharks killed are done so by recreational fisherman. I was a photographer and have been to this tournament a number years and was on one vessel in the touranment 2 years. I can tell you from my experience that in the 2 days we caught and released over 20 sharks and none of them died. We actually had a marine biologist on board with us recording information & tagging them. He educated me to the fact that although we should not turn a blind eye to effect recreatioanl fishing might have on populations, that it actually accounts for only a very small % of Blues taken. We will never be able to tell Sport Fisherman to stop fishing for Sharks, to each his own. Some people prefer bass fishing, trout or salmon, and some like Sharks. Our focus needs to be on the commercial fishing that kills tons a year. As for the comments about the brutality of Shark Fishing and the exposure the kids received from this touranement; again as a photographer, the people from the Marine Fisheries that were there cutting and weighing were actually very educational. It is very apprarent what is going on at these tournaments and people should not bring their kids if they are worried about them seeing this. Thanks all. Keep up the good work.
Jason Heller
Jul 3, 2008 12:48 AM
Jason Heller wrote:
Of course commercial fishing is the largest issue. BUt the glorification of sharks as the enemy doesn't make it easy to fight any battle against the decimation of sharks. For the record - a good percentage of sharks do in fact die after being released, mainly from hooks remaining in their stomachs. The fishermen confirmed that at the tournament, and many shark researchers also subsequently confirmed this sad fact to me offline.
Nicholas Emord
Aug 24, 2010 6:11 PM
Nicholas Emord wrote:
This article is bull s*** if u scroll up to the little kid showing the sark fin to everyone, that was me. My father started the Oak Bluffs Tournament and we educated the public, used the sharks for research for cancer and when we were done WE USED THE SHARK MEAT TO FEED THE HOMELESS!!!!!!!!!!!! we fed over 40,000 homeless people by donating the meat to the boston food bank. Every one loved that tournament no one said boo at all the kids loved it and it was a great family experience. it infuriates me when dumb ass reporters twist things just to make a story interesting. in that tournament we didn't just give a prize for the biggest shark we gave one for the most catch and releases and tagging of sharks for research. Whom ever wrote this article you sicken me.
Jason Heller
Aug 24, 2010 7:20 PM
Jason Heller wrote:
Nicholas, the world and the ocean is a very different place than it used to be. There is a reason that the food banks are now refusing to accept the shark meat from this tournament. There is a reason why the Destin tournament shut down. There is a reason why Frank Mundus in his last days even admitted that catch and release still harms and kills the animals and he created the new circle hooks that mist fishermen don't use. The researchers don't like the tournaments - they are just happyt to have access to sharks that they would otherwise not have funding for. These are all excuses for the tournaments, which are simply and factually bad for sharks.

Are these tournaments decimating local populations of sharks? Probably not. But they do target the most reproductively mature of a species that is in decline. Worse off - the interesting" stories as you put it are covered by the mainstream media who use these tournaments to continue to make sharks look evil, which hurts the bigger conservation efforts.

I'm not a tree hugger, so to speak. But I don't advocate sport hunting of any kind. Killing for fun and money? You'd think that we are above that.
Nicholas Emord
Aug 24, 2010 11:01 PM
Nicholas Emord wrote:
Yes, I agree with you on the fact that some of these tournaments are corrupt and wrong, sense my dad gave away the tournoment to whom ever took it over it has not become a family oriented tournament and has turned into a playboy killing spree. But there is no reason why food banks have stopped taking shark meat, that is comparable to killing a deer and leaving it to decompose, but thats their problem and i don't see why they don't utilize that resource, nothing went to waste in that tournament. and as a side note fishermen use cheap steal hooks that just rust out in a week or to with no harm to the shark making catch and release very safe along as the fish remans in the water.
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