St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The near 13-foot grizzly bear mounted at the Anchorage airport is synonymous with Alaska, while the historic Herreshoff sailboat on display at the Providence airport equates Rhode Island as the Ocean State. Now, the majestic mount of a 1282-pound blue marlin at the Cyril E. King Airport in St. Thomas brings home in a big way the territory’s reputation as the ‘Blue Marlin Capital of the World’.
“We are pleased to accept this donation from the community on behalf of the V.I. Port Authority,” says Jose Nazario, airport manager. “The idea to locate the marlin in baggage claim is to enable all arriving visitors to see it. The mount also makes an eye-catching addition to this 2015-renovated area of the airport.”
The U.S. Virgin Islands initially made headlines in 1964 when John Battles caught the first all-tackle world-record blue marlin in Virgin Islands’ waters, an 814-pounder. Four years later, Elliot Fishman topped this by reeling in an 845-pound blue. Then, on August 6, 1977, Larry Martin caught the 1282-pound blue aboard the 43-foot Merritt, Xiphias. So the story goes, Xiphias’ Capt. Barkey Garnsey decided to stay ashore for the day to meet his wife who was flying into St. Thomas from Florida. Garnsey instead let his mates take the boat out. Martin, one of the mates and a painter at the Merritt Boat & Engine Works, in Pompano Beach, Florida, imagined himself out for a relaxing day when he grabbed the rod as the marlin suddenly bit. Back at the docks in Red Hook that afternoon, the caught marlin was so big that the fisherman had to load in into a pickup truck and drive to the island’s dump where there was a certified scale that met the requirements for an International Game Fishing Association world record. The marlin was then made into a mount. The massive Virgin Islands-caught blue held the all tackle world record for 15 years until an angler in Brazil boated a 1402-pounder in 1992.
“For years, this marlin was displayed in our booth at the Miami International Boat Show. Last year the show moved to its new Key Biscayne location and sadly the 12 year run of the ‘Big Game Room’ is over. Rather than storing the fish in hopes that the show will someday return to the Miami Beach Convention Center, we wanted to donate the mount to the VI Port Authority for display in the airport,” tells Jimmy Loveland, director of the USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament and founder of the Marine Vocational Program.
The big blue’s ‘coming home’ was a community effort. First, Gray Taxidermy, in Pompano Beach, Florida, generously retouched the fish to restore it to its vibrant lit up colors akin to when its jumping out of the sea. Then, the Crowley Maritime Corporation, headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida, donated a 20-foot ocean freight container, transported the crated fish to St. Thomas and stored it until the display stage was ready. In the meantime, the young carpenters at My Brother’s Workshop, a nonprofit organization on St. Thomas, built a beautiful 8-foot by 8-foot wood stage to exhibit the massive marlin.
“It’s wonderful to have finally brought this marlin home and to see the look on visitors face when they see it. It’s a big hit. Everyone wants to take a picture of themselves with it,” says Sue Boland, Marine Vocational Program board member. “I think very soon it will become a landmark in our airport and we’ll hear visitors and residents alike saying ‘meet me by the marlin’.
Proceeds from the USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament (ABMT) and sales of ads in the free On the Edge magazine, available at the airport’s marlin display, fund the Marine Vocational Program (MVP). The MVP’s goal is to serve as a vocational institution that provide U.S. Virgin Islands youth with a career path into the marine/hospitality/tourism industries. Current MVP programs include learn-to-swim, sailing, scuba diving and small boat handling and operation skills.
For more information, call: (340) 775-9500, Email: [email protected], and Visit www.abmt.vi Also, check out the ABMT on Facebook!