Regulators steal fisherman of his 900-pound catch

Regulators steal fisherman of his 900-pound catch
Carlos Rafael of New Bedford, Massachusetts says there is something fishy with the way the US government regulates his job.

Rafael is a professional fisherman — or at least was — but is thinking of jumping ship after authorities told him to toss back the big one.

Rafael was recently out on his boat when his crew inadvertently snared an 881-pound tuna using a fishing net. It doesn’t take a marine biologist to know that that’s a pretty big fish, and at a near-record weight like that, Rafael stood to make around $400,000 off the beast’s meat.

In America, however, it isn’t always that easy.

Yes, Rafael had a permit — after all, he’s a professional. The fisherman had in fact purchased 15 tunas in the last four years, reports The Standard-Times. Those accreditations don’t apply to nets, however, says US regulators, so because Rafael didn’t use a rod and reel to land his catch, they scooped up the tuna and will keep the cash.

When the fisherman caught the fella, he called up a bluefin tuna telephone number maintained by fishery regulators to let them know about his big catch. He figured that by alerting them immediately, he’d be able to set up a deal just as quickly. "I wanted to sell the fish while it was fresh instead of letting it age on the boat," he says. Earlier this year, a fish only slightly smaller fetched $396,000 in Japan, so Rafael was eager to get the tuna onto land and eventually into the hands (and mouths) of consumers.

When the fish made its way to the shore, however, regulators were waiting.

Agents from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Law Enforcement rolled up to the docks of Provincetown just as the fish arrived and said that they were going to have to confiscate his epic catch.

"They said it had to be caught with rod and reel," Rafael says. "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."

"I think I'm going to surrender all my tuna permits now,” he adds to the paper. “What good are they if I can't catch them?”

Speaking to The Sideshow, Monica Allen of the NOAA Fisheries public affairs department says that they are investigation the incident.

"We understand why the fishermen, his crew and everyone was excited about this giant animal. This is an amazing fish,” she says. "We understand the fisherman inadvertently caught this tuna and although he had purchased permits to catch tuna these permits did not allow the catch or landing of bluefin tuna in a trawl net. The permits he had required the use of specific hand gear, a rod and reel, a harpoon or a handline, to catch, land and keep such a tuna."

Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul has made it a campaign promise to nix regulations such as these, saying earlier this year that he has an economic plan that would save America $1 trillion in its first year alone by slashing regulations, a focal point of libertarianism that is widely held by other lawmakers aligned to the philosophy.

Rand Paul, son of the GOP candidate, told a congressional committee earlier this year that "Every regulation doesn't save lives," and also agrees that they are often more burdensome than beneficial.

After the snag that regulators have put in Rafael’s line, he most likely feels the same way.

“It was a beautiful fish,” adds Rafael.