This week the company that coordinates the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series has filed an injunction against Save The Tarpon, a local, grass-roots organization.
Members of the Save The Tarpon organization found themselves staring at a big stack of paperwork Tuesday morning, more than 200 pages to be exact. The papers were hand-delivered right to their doorsteps, to be exact, by process servers. Those named in the injunction include Chairman Tom McLaughlin, Frank Davis, Chris Frohlich, Richard Hirsch, Rhett Morris, Walton “Tommy” Locke Jr., Mark Futch and newly-minted executive director of Save The Tarpon, Lew Hastings.
Silver King Entertainment, Inc., a company who operates the PTTS and is best known for their televised, “reality show” fishing events, has filed the emergency injunction against Save The Tarpon in an effort to quell the group’s voice. They claim that Save The Tarpon has cost them more than $500,000 in sponsorship, television advertising, entry fees and other revenue.
Since the Save The Tarpon organization was created in the last few years, much of their purpose is to raise awareness regarding tarpon conservation. They have, in the past, drawn attention to the fishing methods that PTTS anglers use in Boca Grande Pass such as, but not limited to, fishing techniques they consider harmful to the fish (using “snagging” lures) and relentless herding of the fish during their tournaments.
Several companies, such as Costa del Mar, Tires Plus and Miller’s Ale House, have pulled their sponsorship from PTTS tournaments in the last year or more, but almost all of them have individually stated that their reasons for doing so were more due to a lack of return on their advertisement dollars. Not because of anything that Save The Tarpon has publicized.
In a statement issued by Save The Tarpon, Tom McLaughlin, the group’s chairman, said, “They refused to listen to the voices of those whose only goal was to preserve, protect and grow this storied fishery. And now they want to make those same voices shut up and go away. As the courts have repeatedly and clearly stated, this isn’t how it works in this country ... we will continue to fight to protect, preserve and grow this vital public resource. We won’t be silent, we aren’t going away.”
On April 26 the injunction was filed with the Sarasota County court system. In it Silver King Entertainment claims, “The complaint seeks injunctive relief against the defendants for tortious interference in contractual relationships, tortious interference with business relationships, civil conspiracy and defamation.”
The paperwork goes on to say that Save The Tarpon “ ... raised tens of thousands of dollars for its stated purpose of bringing financial pressure on PTTS sponsors, and achieving its main goal of bringing about the end of the PTTS in Boca Grande, and use this money to mount a concerted campaign against the PTTS and to fund the advertising of its own member fishing guides.”
Brian Beason, an attorney with Frohlich, Gordon & Beason, said they intend to aggressively defend the cause of action.
“I can tell you we believe that it’s been filed in an improper venue, and that the complaint as alleged fails to explain a cause of action, and is subject to dismissal by the court,” he said. “Suffice it to say, we believe that the conduct of the (STT) corporation and its members is defensible, and protected under the First Amendment. My clients have acted at all times within the boundaries of the law.”
A hearing has been scheduled to hear the temporary motion for injunctive relief on Friday, May 10 at 9 a.m. at the Sarasota County Courthouse ... unless a change of venue has taken place since then.
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