Underwatertimes.com News Service - September 19, 2006 17:16 EST

After four days of fishing, the Destin Deep Water Shark Tournament came to a low-key close Sunday.

A small crowd gathered behind Fisherman's Wharf restaurant to watch the last day of weigh-ins, but the biggest catch turned out to be Jonathan Barbee's 765-pound tiger shark, weighed in Thursday.

The 21-year-old Destin native was fishing from the Full Draw and trumped a 656-pound tiger shark weighed in an hour before.

All in all, 11 sharks were killed in the tournament and more than 300 released, including a nurse shark let back into the harbor from the docks near the close of the tournament, said weighmaster Bruce Cheves.

"All around, I believe it was a very successful tournament," Cheves said, adding the 11 sharks killed were hardly the massacre environmental protesters predicted.

No bull or mako shark species were caught in the event, which mainly drew on tiger and nurse populations.

The Destin History and Fishing Museum sponsored the event. Jean Melvin, the museum's director hailed the tournament as a triumph.

"It's better than I ever imagined," Melvin said. "It's like we never stopped. This is what Destin is all about."

This was the first tournament in 11 years. It was called off in 1995 amid environmental concerns. University of Florida researcher George Burgess was taking the opportunity to cut open sharks to gain insight into the health of the shark fishery — where every little bit helps, he said.

"This kind of thing is accumulated knowledge," he said. "A picture starts to take shape once you get enough of the specimens together."

Watching Burgess work were Hanne and Benny Christensen, Atlanta residents who own a second home in Destin.

"We read about this in the paper and thought we should see it," Hanne said.

While they've seen marlin tournaments before, this was the Christensens' first time at a shark contest, and they said they were enjoying themselves.

Not in sight were protesters who waved signs along U.S. Highway 98 earlier in the tournament. However, a plane trailing a banner calling for an end to "cruel" shark tournaments continued to circle the weigh-in site.