We have seen worldwide shark populations declining at an alarming rate, and it is possible that we might witness the extinction of several shark species in our lifetimes if we humans don't change our ways. There are many factors at work here, many of which are outside our control, but we can do our part to preserve this natural resource for future generations by promoting catch-and-release and by educating fellow anglers about the merits of this format. Catch-and-release tournaments provide a good medium for education, and can help change the practices of anglers who target sharks and other species.
When many of us started fishing for sharks on Padre Island, we were championed by other catch-and-release shark fishermen, and we learned how to successfully catch, photograph and release sharks from the beach. During its existence the original Texas Shark Rodeo started by "Big" Lou McGeachan was another big influence on nearly all shark fishermen in the state. Now, through Sharkathon, we would like to spread the message of conservation to a wider base of anglers. It takes a little time to teach a person why it is important to release sharks, but once the seed has been planted, many anglers see the value and participate willingly. We encourage like-minded anglers to join us in spreading the word of conservation, recruiting new members into the world of catch and release.
Sharkathon is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization created by surf fishermen for surf fishermen. Several of us sat on the beach one night and conceptualized what is now a proven format, a tournament where the only thing taken from the sea is a memory and a photograph. After several years of operation, we are realizing the dream we had that night on Padre Island. An idea has been transformed into a successful tournament series with substantial payouts and great prizes awarded to those who participate. Since 2004, our participants have risen from 50 to a self-imposed capacity of 850, and our prizes have increased from $2,500.00 to more than $80,000 in cash and prizes.
Sharkathon serves as a fund-raising entity for the several non-profit and educational organizations. Proceeds from raffle sales have been used to promote educational opportunities for underprivileged children. These funds help children from underprivileged school districts in the Coastal Bend experience the Padre Island National Seashore for the first time, and they allow park staff to educate children about the natural resources contained within the park. We have also donated to Friends of Padre, another non-profit organization that organizes the Billy Sandifer Big Shell Beach Cleanup. Finally, to further research opportunities, we donate and utilize the Texas A&M Corpus Christi's shark tagging program during the tournament to assist the college in continuing this important research.