Feds Confiscate the big Fish

I understand why the rule exists, but really, this story just feels wrong:

This fish story may lack the epic qualities of Ernest Hemingway’s 1952 classic“The Old Man and the Sea,” but for New Bedford’s Carlos Rafael, the outcome was about the same. In both cases, despite capturing and bringing home a huge fish, powerful circum­stances conspired to deprive the luckless fishermen of a potentially huge reward.

Boat owner Rafael, a big player in the local fishing industry, was elated when the crew of his 76-foot steel dragger Apollo told him they had unwittingly captured a giant bluefin tuna in their trawl gear while fishing offshore.

“They didn’t catch that fish on the bottom,” he said. “They probably got it in the mid­water when they were setting out and it just got corralled in the net. That only happens once in a blue moon.”

Rafael, who in the last four years purchased 15 tuna permits for his groundfish boats to cover just such an eventuality, imme­diately called a bluefin tuna hot line maintained by fishery regu­lators to report the catch.

When the weather offshore deteriorated, the Apollo decided to seek shelter in Provincetown Harbor on Nov. 12. Rafael imme­diately set off in a truck to meet the boat.

“I wanted to sell the fish while it was fresh instead of letting it age on the boat,”he said.“It was a beautiful fish.”

It was also a lucrative one. Highly prized in Japan, a 754­pound specimen fetched a record price at a Tokyo auction in January this year, selling for nearly $396,000. These fish can grow to enormous size. The world record for a bluefin, which has stood since 1979, was set when a 1,496-pound specimen was caught off Nova Scotia.

However, when Rafael rolled down the dock in Provincetown there was an unexpected and unwelcome development. The authorities were waiting. Agents from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement informed him they were confis­cating his fish — all 881 pounds of it.

Even though the catch had been declared and the boat had a tuna permit, the rules do not allow fishermen to catch bluefin tuna in a net.

“They said it had to be caught with rod and reel,” a frustrated Rafael said.“We didn’t try to hide anything. We did everything by the book. Nobody ever told me we couldn’t catch it with a net.”

So, one way or another, the fish is dead. Apparently whatever the fed sells it for will be held in suspense until the situation is resolved. One assumes that someone buying numerous licenses to fish Tuna would be responsible to understand what the license covers, so I have no doubt it will resolve in the fed’s favor.

Still, it just seems like the feel-good stories are few and far between.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Joe

    I am growing to hate the Feds.

    I have fished for bluefin (and have personally caught several 200 lbs+ bluefin off Long Island and New Jersey). I am very much for maintaining the fishery, but this sort of over regulation is a bad mistake.

  • kenneth

    Outside of Halliburton and Wall Street, has anyone ever had a feel-good story involving the federal government?

  • Joe

    I do not hate the employees who work for the federal government. I hate that we have a system in place that lacks any sort of prosecutorial discretion. It is insane.

  • http://www.meckgop.com Vincent

    Let me be clear: They took this big money fish to fund their department. They have a lot of lawyers to feed.

  • NBW

    I just hope the Feds don’t let the tuna go to waste. That would be a terrible shame.

  • vox borealis

    In ancient times, the Roman emperor owned the right to all large fish caught anywhere in the empire. We live under tyranny once more. A slightly different manifestation, of course, but tyranny nonetheless.

  • LisaB

    “Outside of Halliburton and Wall Street, has anyone ever had a feel-good story involving the federal government?”
    Solyndra, Siga, Polypore, Chrysler, GM, Fisker Automotive, CEO’s of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Planned Parenthood, etc, etc, etc ….

  • Mark L

    C’mon. This is a feel-good story. I’m sure the bureaucrats that seized this fish feel good about doing it. Just like those that take pleasure in deprivizing others always feel good about that.

  • Mark

    Reagan would laugh at this story and use it effectively. Worst nine words one can hear..
    “I’m from the government and I’m here to help…”

    When Americans again take this message to heart and push to downsize all the federal, state, and local governments and to reduce regulations by about 2/3rd, we can restore hope in our future.

  • Buster000

    They also bust organic farms who sell raw milk. Is time to wake up. We no longer live in a free society.

  • Fr. Allen

    At first I thought this was a sad tale of government regulation gone awry. But then, as rarely happens concerning government regulations, I had a change of heart.

    Perhaps the regulation of huge tuna and fishing nets helps to stabilize tuna populations. Maybe if every commercial fisherman started catching 800lb tuna with nets instead of fishing poles, very few large tuna would exist. Maybe this would lead to tuna depletion? (Overfishing; it’s happened before.)

    Maybe, this is like someone who has a driver’s license and then gets caught speeding. “But I’ve had a driver’s license for years!” “I speed all the time!”

    I’m not for big government in the least, but not all regulations are necessarily bad. I can think of some good oak trees I could cut down and be in firewood for quite a time. But the regulations preventing me, and others, from doing so, exist for good reason.

  • Will

    It is easy to bash government but most rules are there for a purpose.

  • alcogito

    Whatever the purpose, federal regulations very often end up equaling waste.

  • Richard Johnson

    I wonder how many of those complaining about this situation would be setting up a hue and cry if the regs against net fishing for tuna were overturned, and in a few years the price of tuna went through the roof thanks to over-fishing?

    Ah well, at least you folks would have something to complain about, so you’d be happy.

  • Suburbanbanshee

    Nobody says the regs have to be “overturned.” The point of having both laws and people to administer them is that the people are supposed to step in and provide just application of the law. There must be some way to waive the regs or declare they don’t apply, in crazy cases like this; and surely there was nothing stopping the feds from making a speech about “This time, fine, but let’s not see any other fish dragged under the boat,” maybe with a few comments on boat safety.

    Foolish application of smart laws makes Law itself look stupid. It’s an insult to our country and its people, and promotes lawbreaking. It’s also an insult to God, Who is the Author of Law and the shining Sun of Justice.