Of all the cost cutting moves that could come with the micro-managing review that is budget season in Ocean City, it’s startling that the Mayor and Council would see fit to cut $5,000 for the first white marlin release prize of the season.
The council will have the opportunity next week during budget wrap-up sessions to revisit this move, and we encourage the town’s elected officials to keep this pittance in town budget terms.
Within hours of the story being posted online by this newspaper yesterday, a coalition was formed among private businesses to keep the $5,000 prize in play should the town proceed on its current course.
The partnership is called Fishermen United of Ocean City and consists of the Bank of Ocean City, Coastal Fisherman newspaper, Sunset Marina, Bahia Marina, Ocean City Fishing Center and Atlantic Tackle. This group of businesses — each with historic and present ties to the fishing industry — is outraged over the decision, which is perceived as a slight to the local fishing industry.
Clearly, the Mayor and Council members are out of touch on this specific issue and off base if they think the city’s $5,000 prize for the season’s first white marlin catch is meaningless and goes without notice, as several maintained this week during budget discussions. That contribution paired with the Ocean City Marlin Club’s $5,000 award if the boat is a member is significant. It’s a sought after prize and a lot of competition for it. The backlash over the last 24 hours since this paper broke the news online confirms interest and passion for the bragging rights.
This move is short sighted and surprising, considering the massive amounts of money spent on property acquisitions, fire station upgrades, employee benefits, vehicles, supplies and hundreds of other budget line items.
When we posted the first white marlin photo and story online last June, it was viewed by more than 45,000 people on Facebook alone. In comparison, the story this week on the wind turbines being so visible offshore was viewed by about 15,000. Additionally, the day the Fish In OC (a partner of this publication for fishing news) website broke the news of the first white marlin last May, its online traffic was more than double the preceding day and the day after.
On one hand the city is to be lauded for exploring every single cost-cutting move. Every expense should be carefully examined. It’s something private businesses do each year when evaluating spending. However, the city is foolish to cut the mere $5,000 prize. There are plenty of other larger costs to consider before this sort of feel-good, community-minded prize is abandoned.
The good news is there’s time to reconsider this decision for the elected leaders of the “White Marlin Capital of the World.” Word as of press time Thursday afternoon was that a change of direction was likely. It would be a wise move to be responsive to the widespread criticism the move has sparked. The council has shown a proclivity to be reactive in the past and change its position on a controversial matter. This should be one of those times.