Update: After a pretty significant uproar from the fishing community, Ocean City reinstated the $5,000 reward. Thank you, Ocean City. But we'll leave this article up on the web, just as a reminder.
Does Ocean City want to remain known as the White Marlin Capitol of the World? Recent actions of the town council to cease awarding $5,000 to the angler who catches the first white marlin of the year would seem to call this into question. Although the tradition goes back longer than anyone on the council can remember, 2016 may turn out to have been its last gasp.
According to The Dispatch, Councilman Wayne Hartman suggested the award’s time may have passed. “Being the ‘White Marlin Capital of the World,’ it was something that was started some time ago,” he said. “I would be in support if we wanted to stop doing that. In fact, I’ll make a motion to eliminate that.”
It’s a fair bet that we anglers are united in opposition to this move. It’s also a fair bet that the town of Ocean City may benefit from a reminder of just how important fishing is to its coffers.
“It does not appear that the Ocean City Mayor and City Council fully understands the economic impact of recreational sport fishing in Ocean City,” surmised Keith Fraser, owner of Alltackle.com, which operates a brick-and mortar store in Ocean City.
“As an example, the White Marlin Open’s fiscal impact alone exceeds $16 million. Yet with the limited marketing of this world class fishery, it is easy to understand why charter boats often sit in their slips during the premium marlin fishing month of September. Something needs to get done to educate the council and make a plan. A few dollars spent on marketing and promotion would come back to them exponentially in fiscal impact—all the supporting local businesses like hotels, charter boats, fuel docks and tackle shops will benefit. This is a no brainer.”
It’s important to note that the $5,000 prize represents a rather paltry expenditure for a community the size of Ocean City. Yet the award and the recognition that comes with it has been important. How many of us trailer down to OC to try to get that first white? How many of us book a charter? Stay in a hotel and eat at local restaurants?
Some local businesses are acting to pick up the slack. Alltackle has already announced they’ll award a $500 gift certificate to the angler catching the first white of the year. And according to the Coastal Fisherman, Coastal Fisherman, the Bank of Ocean City, Bahia Marine, the Ocean City Fishing Center, and Sunset Marina/Atlantic Tackle are banding together to raise $5,000 to keep the award going. We applaud these actions, but the question remains: is this really an expenditure local businesses should bear, or does the town of Ocean City—to which local businesses already pay taxes and help to support—bear some responsibility?
Perhaps it would help to remind the town, where so many anglers spend so much of our disposable income, that the elimination of the $5,000 award from the budget isn’t going unnoticed. You can send an email to Mayor Rick Meehan and council members, if you’d like them to know your thoughts.