(June 26, 2020) The Ocean City Council declared its official support for the White Marlin Open fishing tournament Monday, agreeing to provide the local enterprise with a letter to that effect to be used as it navigates its way through covid-19 safety advisories and regulations.
Attorney Joe Moore, legal counsel for the White Marlin Open, said he requested the city’s endorsement in a letter to Mayor Rick Meehan dated June 17, because of concerns at the time about a confusing directive regarding spectatorship at fishing tournaments.
“It will be greatly appreciated if the mayor and council would issue a letter of support for the White Marlin Open in general, due to the fact that it is a significant economic driver for the Town of Ocean City, and the surrounding area, as it has been for the past 47 years,” the letter states.
To be held Aug. 2-8 this year, the open is a world caliber contest worth millions of dollars in prize money to anglers and more millions to the local economy.
Moore said Del. Wayne Hartman, (R-38C), had received clarification before Monday’s meeting from the Maryland Secretary of Commerce.
“We had a lengthy conversation about this issue yesterday with Maryland Department of Health, Maryland State Police, Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Governor’s office,” Commerce Secretary Kelly Schultz said in an email to Hartman.
“We all came to the conclusion that this is not a typical spectator sport due to there not necessarily being a specific venue in which it takes place. Our guidance would be to make sure that the local health officer is aware of the plan so that they have some awareness of the event, but we do not believe that the guidance you are referencing would be used for fishing tournaments.
“Thus, there would be no limitation on the event or the spectators other than the guidance that is currently in place for the restaurants, bars, etc., where individuals may gather before, during or after the event.”
With that cleared out of the way, the tournament needed to receive input from the Worcester County Health Department, and requested the letter to show that the city backed the event.
“We stress … that we will strictly comply with all of the covid-19 requirements that have been in effect,” Moore said.
Moore said he had filed an application with the resort’s recreation department asking to use the bayside Third Street ball field to set up a virtual viewing area of the fishing tournament to limit the number of people who would go otherwise to Harbour Island on 14th Street.
“At both Harbour Island and Third Street, if it is approved by [the park and recreation department], we will limit the capacity very definitely to whatever is then required by the health department or other regulatory agencies,” Moore said.
To do this, Moore said one plan was to issue color-coded wristbands to keep track of attendance, and each day’s color would be different to prevent wristband abuse.
Additionally, Moore said, the White Marlin Open has always been security conscious, and would go a step further this year by having additional personnel on site to enforce social distancing requirements.
The council unanimously supported the request.
“I’m really excited about what you’re going to do at Third Street,” Knight said. “I think that’s a great idea, and if it goes well this year maybe it’s something we can continue with.”
Meehan reiterated that the letter simply expressed the council’s approval of the general tournament and did not grant conciliar authority to ideas proposed by Moore, which would be determined by the health department and other tournament partners.