When local shark fishermen Brad Dela Cruz and Dave Kirby decided to organize a new mako shark tournament, there were many ideas and concepts they wanted to implement to make the contest, in their minds, superior to other similar competitions.

As veterans of many fishing contests, the duo thought long and hard about what they enjoy in a tournament and what could be improved upon, eventually devising an event that they believed served what modern fishermen were looking for in a major offshore competition.

They lowered costs, reconsidered time and territory ideals and chose a date they thought would yield the biggest fish.

They called the event the New Moon Mako Shark and Swordfish Tournament and it appears, by all accounts, that they have fulfilled their goals.

Last weekend, on September 26th, as water temperatures rose to the preferred levels for mako and swordfish, and the new moon rose, many fishermen left the docks of both Marina del Rey and Redondo Beach to fish through the night into the next day.

There were near-perfect conditions for large fish, and large is what would win.

Team Booyaa hooked up at 11:30 a.m. Saturday and brought in the winning fish, weighing 748 pounds. The team of Chad Compton, DJ Martin, Dan Ulrich and Tony Corrina had their hands full, with a fish over 16 feet long, but like many of their competitors, they had been down this big-game road before.

This fish would be the only extraordinary catch of the day. The second-place fish was a considerably smaller 250-pound shark brought in by Team Motivator.

Dela Cruz and Kirby were glad to see that the timing of the tournament did indeed yield an enormous winning fish, but were almost just as happy with the fact that many of the teams were catching and releasing much smaller sharks. While none were large enough to qualify for the tournament, they were pleased to see that the species was prospering.

“All the teams could have caught something,” said Dela Cruz. “But it helped the environment by not taking any of the younger fish and next year we’ll have a catch-and-release division and those fish will count.”

And it’s this eco-minded side of big game fishing that many don’t see or consider. Animal rights groups have frowned upon this sport and all it involves, but many might be surprised by the amount of consideration and respect these anglers have for the target of their hunt and how beneficial the catch becomes.

Dela Cruz has estimated that from his outings alone he has generated over 10,000 meals for the homeless. The winning fish from Saturday’s event has fed over 400 disadvantaged and homeless people at the Long Beach Rescue Mission.

“Whenever they call, my staff is always eager to pick up,” said Long Beach Rescue Mission assistant director Jesse Krohmer. “Imagine what it would cost to buy stuff like that? And it’s healthy too.”

Beyond the food that it provides, the enormous mako that Team Booyaa caught and other tournament fish often find their way into the scientific community. While researchers, by and large, have the ability to make their own contact with the species involved in their studies, they are sometimes faced with certain limitations.

The NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Fisheries Service, for example, studies the behavioral patterns of a variety of species to determine how to most effectively manage, conserve and protect inside the marine environment, but aren’t equipped to handle extraordinarily large fish.

“It’s easy to get fish up to about three meters with the commercial fishing gear,” said Russ Vetter, director of the Fisheries Division at the NOAA Fisheries Service. “But we don’t have access to some of the really big animals, which we’re starting to become more and more interested in, so the tournaments are very valuable to us.”

Vetter compares the process to an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation as they comb through a large animal from nose to tail and gather whatever they can to accrue more information. They extract DNA and compare how a Californian shark may differ from one in Japan or Chile for instance. Or for these more rare larger makos, they are interested in seeing if, as they grow, whether the sharks shift from a primarily fish diet to one that includes marine mammals, similar to a great white shark.

With the samples they have garnered, there will be many tests conducted to help scientists further understand an animal they know relatively little about.

But at the end of the day it appears that both the sportfisherman and the researcher are interested in a similar end goal — to see mako flourish throughout the oceans and be healthy and abundant.

“Our job is to make sure, between the commercial and recreational [fishermen], that they’re not taking too many and that they’re taking them in an intelligent way,” Vetter said.

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