The Guy Harvey Ultimate Shark Challenge Tournament Series
Catch and Release Shark Tournament Hailed as a Model for Sport Fishing Enthusiasts and Marine Conservationists
The Tournament Series will be an all-release shark fishing tournament off the Southwest Florida coast, beginning with a qualifying round April 30 – May 2 at Burnt Store Marina in Lee County and concluding with a Grand Championship Finale May 21-23 at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota County. The grand prize, based on fifteen, two-man team entries, is $10,000 with additional payouts through fifth place. Incentives will also be offered for a variety of bonuses, including largest shark and recaptured tags. The entire competition will be filmed for network broadcast.
To reduce landing times, innovative competitive guidelines require the use of heavy conventional tackle (no spinning reels), an 80 pound minimum line class and inline, non-stainless steel circle hooks. There is a five-foot minimum length for all qualifying species, which include: shortfin mako, tiger, great hammer, scalloped hammer, dusky, sand tiger, bull, lemon, sandbar, spinner, blacktip and nurse sharks. All animals will be measured in the water and identified by anglers at boat side before being tagged, either conventionally or with satellite tracking tags. Tail snares and other special equipment will be used for angler and animal safety, as well as for the expedient handling and release of sharks.
“For the first time, what we call a ‘love ‘em and leave ‘em’ shark tournament will be transformed into a true spectator sport,” said Sean Paxton. He and his brother, Brooks, known as the Shark Brothers, are tournament directors and architects of the event’s unique format. Along with Co-Director and Associate Producer, Captain Robert Moore, they state, “Our shared vision for this tournament is to effectively combine the goals of sport, science and conservation, while giving participants and spectators the most exciting, entertaining and educational shark-infested, multimedia spectacle found anywhere on the planet.”
In 2009, the Paxtons, and Robert E. Hueter, Ph D., Director of Mote Marine Laboratory’s Center for Shark Research (CSR), teamed up with renowned marine wildlife artist, scientist and conservationist, Dr. Guy Harvey to present this innovative competitive event designed to serve as a model for responsible sport fishing and conservation.
“The Guy Harvey Ultimate Shark Challenge Tournament Series will be a uniquely exciting event for participants, spectators and everyone who cares about the future of our oceans,” Guy Harvey said.
Joining tournament directors, Mote and Guy Harvey in this ambitious effort are partners and supporters: Ray Judah, Lee County Commissioner; Luke Tipple, Director of Shark-Free Marinas Initiative; Florida Gulf Coast University and other advocates of effective environmental stewardship.
Dr. Robert Hueter, director of Mote’s Center for Shark Research, will oversee the scientific aspects of the tournament. In addition to using standard tagging methods, some of the sharks will be outfitted with satellite tags in a cooperative effort with Lee County and the Florida Gulf Coast University so researchers and the general public can track their movements immediately after release.
Hueter has built specific scientific objectives into the tournament and collaborative research project. Anticipated results include:
- Documentation of shark species composition, relative abundance and size/sex data
- Migratory behavior and stock identification data from conventional tagging studies
- Post-release survivorship estimates
- Identification of shark critical habitats, including nursery ground
Teams participating in the Guy Harvey Ultimate Shark Challenge will be trained to conventionally tag all qualifying sharks over 5 feet in length to earn points.
One priority in this project will be to satellite-tag certain candidate species including large female great hammerheads (Sphyrna mokarran) which are found in the tournament region in April-May, often pregnant. The pupping grounds for this species in the eastern Gulf of Mexico are relatively unknown, and satellite tags on these large sharks will help to elucidate the location of these critical habitats. Once the shark is measured and scored by the competing anglers, it will be handed off to the research team who will place a satellite tag and release the fish.
For all event details and contact information, visit:
Photos provided by: The Shark Brothers & Captain Robert Moore
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