Big-money shark fishing tournaments are one of the economic mainstays of the Montauk fishing fleet, and they also draw animal rights protesters.
This year, the Concerned Citizens of Montauk has spent about $4,000 to buy special circle hooks that are designed to reduce fish mortality, and operators of 70 fishing boats — about a quarter of the Montauk fleet — have agreed to use them in the June 17-18 Star Island Yacht Club and Marina tournament.
“We’re putting our money where our mouth is,” said Bob Stern, president of Concerned Citizens of Montauk.
In the tournament, each boat is allowed to bring in only one shark. Many sharks that are hooked pull away, with the traditional “J” hook causing serious internal damage if it is swallowed.
Stern supports the fishing industry and says that the new hooks — which do not cause significant damage if they are swallowed — are a big step toward stopping the killing of fish.
Rav Freidel, a director of Concerned Citizens, which has 800 members, said that 50 of the new hooks will be given to each boat that has agreed to use them. Charter boat captains will be told to explain the necessary changes in fishing technique to the people on their boats.
There is an $800 entry fee per boat in the Star Island Yacht Club and Marina tournament, and prizes of up to $3,500 are given out for the heaviest shark in each species each day. Tournament officials say that 340 sharks were tagged and released by the fishermen in last year’s contest, and more than 750 pounds of shark meat was donated to the Long Island Council of Churches food pantry.
The event brings an estimated 5,000 people to the Montauk docks during the tournament weekend.