Capt. Len Belcaro SHUT UP!

Capt. Len, who publishes an embarrassing rag called “The Big Game Fishing Journal,” is giving angling conservationists a bad name by venting his spleen all over the Internet about how awful is Dr. Guy Harvey’s, the HSUS’, and MY “Shark Free Marina Initiative.” What’s with this guy? He makes the NRA sound rational and sane with his rantings about “a back door tactic [aimed at] shutting down another recreational fishery nationwide.” Pahleeeeze! Dr. Harvey, HSUS, and I want to encourage anglers to release their sharks alive since most shark species are endangered in fact, if not by official decree. Capt. Len’s logic is this: The HSUS is “a radical animal rights group.” Ergo: anything it proposes must be bad. Why the hell, when it proposes something smart and enlightened like preserving sharks, don’t the Capt. Len’s of this world encourage it to keep at it? If the HSUS came out against hunger, the Capt. Lens would be in favor. For the record, and this is irrelevant to the discussion, the HSUS is neither “radical” nor an “animal rights” group. It is an animal-welfare group, and there’s a huge difference. Do I agree with it all the time? Of course not. But when it does good stuff (in this case great stuff), I am with it 100 percent. Capt. Len: Wake up and smell the coffee.

Here’s Shark Free Marina’s well-written response to Capt. Len’s ridiculous screed:

It has come to our attention that the “Big Game Fishing Journal” recently contacted many of our members by mail and telephone to openly criticize their involvement with the Shark-Free and Shark Friendly Marina Initiative. We have reached out to the author, Capt. Len Belcaro, but since he has yet to respond, we feel it is necessary to address this on our webpage.

To our members, Shark-Free Marinas and The Humane Society of the United States have nothing to do with the ‘Big Game Fishing Journal’ or their proposed “Shark Smart Marina Initiative’. We apologize for any confusion caused by the unsolicited contact made by Capt. Belcaro. As a member of our Initiative, your contact information is part of the public record. We feel this is appropriate as we aim to increase your business presence by giving your property exposure on our website. We appreciate your continued support and membership.
To address some of Capt. Belcaro’s concerns we will reiterate facts that are already available on our website:

The Shark-Free and Shark-Friendly Marina Initiative (collectively SFMI) is a voluntary program, and we do not solicit funding from our members.
The Shark-Free Marina Initiative is a project of the Pegasus Foundation and the Humane Society of the United States. It is strongly supported by the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, fishpond Inc., the National Center for Shark Research at Mote Marine Laboratory, the Fisheries Conservation Foundation, and the Cape Eleuthera Institute.

Our Board of Directors and Advisory Board include reputable scientists, fishermen, social strategists, community leaders and high ranking non-profit members. It is publicly available here: http://sharkfreemarinas.com/about/board

SFMI is not connected with the Pew Charitable Trusts. We have a collegial relationship with Pew and commend their worldwide campaign to protect sharks, but our organizations are not connected at an operational level nor do we receive or share funding with Pew.

The members of SFMI include marinas and marine industry connected businesses. The latter usually fall under the ‘Shark-Friendly’ category and include marine repair businesses, restaurants, boat brokerages and many other marina-related businesses. We believe it is important to make shark protection a responsibility of the entire marine community and do not limit our membership structure to just marinas.

SFMI was started as a way to directly enable marinas, businesses and fishermen to contribute to protecting sharks worldwide. We acknowledge that the greatest part of the devastation to shark populations has been caused by commercial fishermen; however, it is evident that the recreational fishing community also has a significant impact on shark numbers, particularly those of highly desirable species of breeding age. NMFS is responsible for collecting data on shark catches and a search of their database shows recreational harvests of over 200,000 sharks per year. Our members voluntarily contribute to lowering this number by banning or discouraging their patrons from landing sharks at their facility.

As a fisherman you know what it means to launch from an SFMI-registered marina. Catching sharks is not illegal; however, a ‘Shark-Free’ marina prohibits the practice of landing sharks at the marina while a ‘Shark-Friendly’ marina discourages sharks from being harvested and does not support activities like shark kill tournaments. Both facilities encourage sport shark-fishermen to exercise catch-and-release techniques. Some SFMI-registered marinas are also access points for tagging programs and catch-and-release shark-fishing tournaments.
Although we discourage the killing of all sharks especially just for a photo at the marina dock, a sharks death should be for consumption purposes only and it's capture must conform to the applicable Federal and State guidelines. This practice would be acceptable under our Shark Friendly Marina program.

An SFMI-registered marina is helping to protect the oceans by protecting sharks the best way it can and we appreciate your continued financial and social support of their facility.

Capt. Belcaro’s letter further alleges that some of our members were signed up without their permission. We believe this is unlikely as all submissions for membership are vetted for authenticity before appearing on our website; however, SFMI is a voluntary program and if any business feels it is incorrectly represented on our website, they should contact us directly.

We publicly and respectfully request that Capt. Len Belcaro and the Big Game Fishing Journal contact us directly should they wish to address our policies or need more information about our organization.

Luke Tipple
Managing Director of the Shark-Free Marina Initiative

Finally. Get involved. Log onto Shark Free Marinas: http://www.sharkfreemarinas.com/