No long-lasting action is expected to be taken today when the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is expected to talk with officials from the Boca Grande Fishing Guides Association and the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series about how best to protect the tarpon fishery.
A heated debate could develop. No love is lost between the two groups, each of which believes the other side is trying to gut their golden goose.
The BGFGA has been lobbying the FWC to stop tarpon slaughter during catch-and-weigh tourneys run by the PTTS.
The FWC is conducting a fact-finding summit in Tampa today regarding the tarpon fishery in Boca Grande Pass.
The PTTS organizer characterized the BGFGA as a small group trying to demonize his series. Joe Mercurio, vice president and general manager of Silver King Entertainment LLC, said the PTTS conducts its activities with the "utmost respect for the fishery."
"PTTS tournament activity likely has no effect on the tarpon population as a whole," Mercurio said in an open letter to PTTS members.
The tarpon carcasses lining Boca Grande beaches after PTTS activity tell another story, said the BGFGA. They want the FWC to ban jig gear from snagging tarpon and require all tourneys in the Boca Grande Pass to be catch-and-release without the PTTS weigh-ins that prove fatal to dozens of the silver kings every tourney season.
"Hopefully, we'll see a no-kill situation put in place," said Capt. Steve Ahlers of Boca Grande. "That would be a step in the right direction."
The 8:30 a.m. Thursday meeting, open to the public, will be at the Doubletree Hotel, 4500 W. Cypress St., Tampa. Tarpon protection discussion will likely come near mid-day, the FWC said.
FWC commissioners will hear an update on tarpon, game fish and sport fish designations and how they might affect some Florida fisheries only after strategy and budget issues are determined.
FWC Chairman Kenneth Wright promised the issue of protecting the tarpon fishery around Boca Grande would receive a fair airing.
"We're going to be taking this issue up in our September meeting in Tampa," Wright said. "There's been enough attention brought to me and the FWC that I am going to be looking into it and holding a tarpon summit bringing together representatives of the tarpon guides, Bonefish & Tarpon Trust as well as Professional Tarpon Tournament Series and get as many of those parties together to get the facts on the table. "
Wright backs creating a protective sportsfish category covering marlin, sailfish, bonefish and tarpon.
Executive Director Nick Wiley, the Division of Hunting and Game Management, Division of Habitat and Species Conservation will report on imperiled species management.