An old adage says "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day-Teach a man to fish and you feed him for life." The saying rings especially true to the town of Destin which, despite its massive development and booming tourism trade, is still fondly remembered as a sleepy little fishing village. Now, one of the town's older traditions is coming under fire, again.
Sharks have been around for 400 million years. Dating back to prehistoric times, sharks have shown an extraordinary ability to resist cancer and other diseases. Their only real threat is man. And that has the town of Destin at odds with the national humane society. The dispute is over it's annual Shark Fishing Tournament.
John Grandy is Vice Present of the Humane Society. "it's just irresponsible in this day and age to have a town which glorifies the mutilation and destruction of sharks when their populations are so bad off."
The tournament was a once an annual event that took place every year in September. Organizers stopped it in 1995, because of shark endangerment issues. Then last year, Destin's Fishing and History Museum board resurrected it as a fund-raiser. Over 6-thousand people showed up, raising 57-thousand- dollars.
But the U-S Humane Society heavily criticized the event. Concerned about more criticism this year, the museum board pulled it's sponsorship of the tournament this week. Janet Chapman is Associate Director of Museum. "It was a difficult decision by the museum but the overall idea was we want the museum to be in an educating, inspiring, and positive light."
The move will hurt. The museum is raising money to relocate. Board members found themselves having to choose between the money generating event and the city's image. Chapman says, “We want to try to create with the museum a festival that celebrates sharks."
And they may get some help from the same people who condemned the shark tournament. The U-S Humane Society says it's willing to underwrite it and help get sponsorship and the museum needs it. "Now due to the fact we withdrew from this major fundraiser we now more than ever rely on donations and membership and we need people to come to the museum with their donations and support the museum."
Joyce LaFountain has lived in Destin since the late 1950's and has seen a lot of original traditions go to the wayside. "It's sad we don't have some of our regular traditions like we used to have."
The Destin Shark Tournament organizers did their best to limit the number of sharks killed, by enforcing strict "catch" rules. Scientists from the University of Florida also used the tournament to collect samples for research. Now that won't happen, at least not a the Destin Shark Tournament.