Is The Port Antonio Chapter Of The International Marlin Tournament Dying?
Port Antonio, the birthplace of the Blue Marlin Tournament has been the primary host of this sport as far back as 1959. This sport, the brainchild of Mr. James Patterson, a Portlander, was born out of his dream of angling exclusively for the Atlantic Blue Marlin. His quest eventually led to the formation of the Eastern Anglers of Port Antonio, a group that hosted this event in October of each year for nineteen years, until the economic instability of the country in 1977 caused the group to dissipate.
A year later, a new group of anglers called the Sir Henry Morgan Angling Association was formed out of Kingston and Port Royal, and they continued to operate the sport from that area. This new group also introduced other areas of Jamaica’s south coast to fishing tournaments. In 1982 the group refurbished the Port Antonio Marina and picked up where the Eastern Anglers of Port Antonio left off, hosting the parishes 20th International Marlin Tournament. Since it’s reintroduction into the parish, this sport has seen a steady growth in the number of boats and anglers participating in the tournament over the years.
It had become a customary sight for all the locals in the community and for the various school groups to congregate on the shores of the town in order to have a look at the spectacular view of the many boats that would normally sail out on the opening morning of the tournament. One of the towns’ high schools, situated along the banks of the harbor channel would temporarily suspend classes for the students to go outside to have a view of this beautiful sight. Imagine the sight of 40 to 60 boats going through the West Harbor at once being led by a large coast guard vessel and a helicopter hovering overhead.
The past four years however have seen a gradual but drastic reduction in the number of boats and anglers competing in this very famous event. In earlier years, just driving along the coastal roads, one could easily spot the many small boats dotting the horizon, to be reminded that it was the time of year when the Marlin Tournament was happening. This sight now rarely exists, as the vessels are fewer in numbers and smaller in size.
The reduction in the number of vessels entering the Tournament, has been attributed to reasons such as:
- A hurricane in the Caribbean and North American region that affects the arrival of various boats.
- The docking fee is relatively higher in Port Antonio in comparison to fees being charged along the South coast; therefore, to anglers having participated in other tournaments along the South coast, the cost is a deterrent to participating in this leg of the tournament.
- Costly damage to electrical equipment on board vessels due to faulty charging facilities at the docks.
Undoubtedly, the sponsors of the event have the remained supportive. Opening day events are even broadcast live on the local radio station. However the boats are less in numbers and the beauty and festivity of the event greatly reduced.
Now, with the new Mega Yacht Marina that is being built in the Port Antonio area, making room to hold up to over five times the amount of vessels that the old marina was able to, I ask again “Will the Marlin Tournament in the Port Antonio area continue to die?”