White marlin fishing could be prohibited

White marlin fishing could be prohibited for five years – A proposed federal regulation that could severely restrict the white marlin fishing industry encouraged Ocean City officials to send a letter to Gov. Robert Ehrlich explaining why the resort is opposed to it.
During Tuesday afternoon’s work session, Mayor Jim Mathias also requested that the City Council attend a public meeting at Northside Park on Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. to show their disagreement with the proposal from the National Marine Fisheries Service.

“We as a council can formulate a position to be able to speak clearly to this proposal and let [state and federal officials] know that this is something we are not comfortable with and could adversely affect our community,” Mathias said.

If the proposal passes, catching a white marlin would be prohibited starting in 2007 through 2011, Mathias said. This would impact fishing tournaments throughout the country and more importantly, the White Marlin Open – a weeklong event that brings millions of dollars into the resort annually.

“It would severely hamper our charter boat and billfish charter industry in Ocean City,” Mathias said on Wednesday, adding Ocean City has more than a 95 percent catch and release rate. “It would be devastating to us. Ocean City is the White Marlin Capital of the World. This isn’t just about the money – the money is critical – but this is about our legacy.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, Councilman Jay Hancock suggested that the mayor and City Council look into the allegations that have been made against commercial fishermen as opposed to the sporting fishermen.

“It has been indicated that the commercial people are the reason why the white marlin is in jeopardy,” Hancock said. “So the commercial aspect needs to be more tightly, I don’t want to say regulated, but at least observed so they aren’t taking white marlin while they’re catching tuna.”

The mayor and City Council understood Hancock’s concern and ask that he allow them to formulate a position.

“I will assure you that we will have that as a clear statement,” Mathias said. “We’ll make every effort to make sure that all interests of Ocean City are protected. We have made strong attempts not to have a segregated interest, that we’ve had integrative interest with regards to our commercial and recreational fishery.”

According to NFMA’s website, it “has an obligation to conserve, protect, and manage living marine resources in a way that ensures their continuation as functioning components of marine ecosystems, affords economic opportunities, and enhances the quality of life for the American public.”

Jennifer Lehman
Staff Writer

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