January 25, 2017; Biloxi, Mississippi:
The Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic, one of the premier big-game fishing tournaments in the world, today announced the decision to increase the minimum length requirement for blue marlin to 107 inches for its June event. Eligible fish must measure at least 107 inches from the tip of the lower jaw to the fork of the tail. The previous requirement was 100 inches, making this new increase a significant statement for billfish conservation.
“The blue marlin caught off the Mississippi coast are huge, really huge,” says MGCBC Tournament Coordinator Bert Merritt. “So at our January board meeting, there were three main factors involved in the committee’s decision to raise the minimum length: an analysis of our historical tournament data, discussions with several of our highly respected teams and a passionate statement from our resident marine biologist and fellow board member Jim Franks. These factors combined to ignite the discussion which led us to the unanimous decision for the length increase to 107 inches. We feel certain this decision will be well received in the billfish community as its obvious intent is to enhance the conservation efforts of the magnificent blue.
“At the same time it allows the MGCBC to continue to lead the way in providing a competitive tournament venue, one in which we hope will give future generations opportunities to compete,” Merritt added.
The previous 100-inch mark was one inch above the federally established mandate for blue marlin harvest. Throughout its history the MGCBC has also always placed a major emphasis on conservation and scientific data. Franks and his fellow researchers from the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory of the University of Southern Mississippi, together with teams of graduate students, have used tournament-weighed marlin as well as other pelagic species like tuna, wahoo and dolphin to collect samples for age, growth and reproductive studies along with population dynamics and sustainability.
“This was the right decision at the right time,” says Tournament Director Bobby Carter. “It fits with the guiding principles of our event, promotes greater billfish conservation and keeps the Classic among the most competitive sport-fishing tournaments in the world. The billfish release stakes just got higher, plus we’ll still have some exceptional marlin coming to the scales for the thousands of spectators who come to watch the weigh-ins. So it really is a win-win situation all around.”
The 21st annual Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic will be held June 5-11, 2017, in Biloxi. Hosted by the Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino, the tournament typically draws upwards of 100 of the top big-game teams in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coast. Last year’s contest awarded a record payout of nearly $1.8 million. The Classic also holds the record for the largest blue marlin caught in the Gulf, a 1054.6-pounder (138 inches LJFL) landed by Barry Carr aboard Sea Wolff in 2002.