WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A shark fishing competition is set to take place Saturday. The location is confidential for safety reasons.
"Come out fishing with us, we're open to talk. The problem is the other side wants to threaten us," said Robert 'Fly' Navarro. "There's a lot of emotion on both sides."
Navarro is a sports fisherman representing the competition and says 50 boats are registered for the tournament, despite an online petition with 142,000+ signatures to cancel the shark hunt.
"It's no different than if it was a snook tournament, or a billfish tournament or a blue marlin tournament," said Navarro.
In the competition, each boat has a limit of killing one shark and releasing the rest while providing FAU Harbor Branch scientists with data.
"Sharks are very important in the ecosystem, but the problem is, it's starting to get a little imbalanced right now. So we want to bring light to the situation before it becomes a huge problem," said Navarro"
"They think that sharks are overpopulated and that's not true. Sharks are experiencing the same overfishing that we're experiencing," said Rayna O'Nan, a local shark diver. "We're catching less fish, we're seeing less life in the oceans and they're seeing that as well."
O'Nan said she'll be joining a group of activists at the shark competition monitoring the event and weighing stations.
"I would love to sit down with any fisherman and talk about what we could do to protect sharks and other fish populations in this area," said O'Nan.
The only sharks allowed to be killed for a trophy are bull sharks and prizes are for the fishermen that release their sharks.
"I'm very anxious, there's sharks that I see every day and it scares me that I'm going to see one of them tomorrow dead," said O'Nan. "The fact is, this is legal. It is legal to fish bull sharks. We are really striving for this tournament to not happen again and make legislative change."
The tournament is scheduled for Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
A protest against the event is scheduled for Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. on the southwest side of the Blue Heron Bridge.