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Massachusetts fishermen snare 881-pound tuna, feds take it

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 03:47 a.m. HST, Nov 23, 2011

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. » It's the big one that got taken away.

Local fishing boat owner Carlos Rafael was elated when one of his trawlers snared an 881-pound bluefin tuna earlier this month.

But the joy was short-lived. Federal fishery enforcement agents seized the fish when the crew returned to port Nov. 12.

Rafael had tuna permits but was told catching tuna with a net is illegal.

Instead, it's got to be caught by handgear, such as rod and reel, harpoon or handline.

"We didn't try to hide anything," Rafael told The Standard-Times newspaper of New Bedford, a famous whaling era port 50 miles south of Boston. "We did everything by the book. Nobody ever told me we couldn't catch it with a net."

A fish that big is hugely valuable, prized by sushi-lovers for its tender red meat. A 754-pound tuna recently sold for nearly $396,000.

Rafael's fish will be sold overseas, and he'll get no share of the proceeds if regulators find a violation, The Standard-Times reported (http://bit.ly/uczYap ). The money would instead go into the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fund that also holds money collected for fishery fines.

Rafael said he thinks he's going to surrender his tuna permits now.

"What good are they if I can't catch them?" he said.

The tuna was likely inadvertently snagged as Rafael's crew set a net to catch bottom-dwellers, he said.

"They probably got it in the mid-water when they were setting out and it just got corralled in the net," Rafael said. "That only happens once in a blue moon."

On Tuesday, the NOAA issued a reminder that bluefin tuna can't be caught legally in trawl nets, even by accident.

The NOAA says the bluefin tuna now reproducing off the coast are below 30 percent of their population level in the 1970s and the fish takes a long time to rebound because it's slow to grow and reproduce.

The rules aim to take away any incentive to chase and keep the highly coveted fish, beyond what's allowed.

"It is important to carefully follow the regulations so U.S. fishermen can retain their share, and the associated jobs and profits, of this international resource," the NOAA said.

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Anonymous wrote:
Due to pay cuts and services Feds need a way to make their pay raises and pay roll, plus the holidays is here and BIG BONUS for them if they can sell it to the nearest sushi bar! LOL!
on November 23,2011 | 04:07AM
Kauikalewa wrote:
That i`a is awesome. Wow! What an accomplishment. How sad they couldn't have the results. Not fair. Other Big Fish took it away. What a picture?
on November 23,2011 | 04:18AM
MCCR60 wrote:
How is this an accomplishment?!? They caught it by ACCIDENT and ILLEGALLY. It's like stumbling upon a gold nugget that isn't yours and stealing it. Yeah great job.
on November 23,2011 | 09:34AM
serfboy wrote:
How sad that a bluefin of that size was killed by net. The bluefin population in the North Atlantic is severely stressed and one of that size was an adult for sure. One less breeding adult to build the species up.
on November 23,2011 | 05:42AM
postmanx wrote:
Poor fish...As I understand it the bigger fish get the more eggs they produce. It's another sad day in the ocean kingdom.
on November 23,2011 | 06:48AM
motoxdad wrote:
tree hugger
on November 23,2011 | 07:51AM
cojef wrote:
Many families can really have feast with a fish that large. Ono with wasabi. Wow. Wonder if that size fish has any worms? Anyone know?
on November 23,2011 | 07:13AM
motoxdad wrote:
Maybe in the belly, but like the article said it's probably worth 400,000 dollars, i'm pretty sure that the japanese are buying it, worms or no worms, poor guy just got ripped from the feds.
on November 23,2011 | 07:49AM
Lanikaula wrote:
"It is important to carefully follow the regulations so U.S. fishermen can retain their share, and the associated jobs and profits, of this international resource," the NOAA said. Wouldn't it be cool if ALL regulations were followed this closely, e.g. BANKERS, AUTO INDUSTRY, OIL-IGARCHY CORPORATIONS who violate those laws have to return their 'booties' back to the people instead?
on November 23,2011 | 07:45AM
Hapa_Haole_Boy wrote:
While visions of choke ahi sashimi and poke danced in kamaaina's heads....
on November 23,2011 | 10:33AM
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