Newburyport Shark Fishing Tournament Becomes Subject of Controversy

Activists, including Massachusetts native and filmmaker Eli Roth, are calling for the cancellation of the Newburyport Shark and Tuna Tournament

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The controversial shark fishing tournaments popular along the East Coast are now the target of conservationists who want events like these canceled.

"You're sending a message that sharks are entertainment," said Massachusetts native and filmmaker Eli Roth, who directed a recent documentary focused on the killing of sharks. "We're wiping them out for likes on Facebook and to give each other prizes. It's completely insane. It's senseless."

Activists have set their sights on the upcoming Newburyport Shark and Tuna Tournament.

Hundreds of anglers on 30 to 50 boats are set to reel in some big fish.

"Over 99% of the sharks are caught and released," said tournament organizer Larry Collins.

Last year, Collins says more than 300 sharks were caught, but almost all were released back into the water.

"The truth is last year one shark, one single shark was taken, and the angler took that home and barbecued it for he and a number of friends," said Collins.

Collins says most of the sharks are tagged and data is shared with shark researchers.

"I would argue I've done far more to help preserve the species and provide data than somebody that sits at a computer and posts," said Collins. "Activism is not hitting the like button."

Gabe DiSaverio, a conservationist and owner of The Spicy Shark hot sauce company in New Hampshire, says even tossing the sharks back in the water can still cause a lot of damage.

"A lot of times, they die from the stress of being caught," said DiSaverio. "A lot of times, the hook gets swallowed, and they die from that, because it destroys them from the inside out."

The tournament gets underway Friday night.

The tournament director says he has no plans to cancel the shark portion of the event.

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