Carlos Rafael of New Bedford, owner of the 76-foot steel dragger Apollo said he was ecstatic when his crew caught the massive fish in their trawl gear while fishing offshore and he quickly called a hot line maintained by fishery regulators to report the catch, The (New Bedford) Standard Times reported Tuesday.
Rafael said he purchased 15 tuna permits in recent years in case any of his boats ensnared a tuna, so he was shocked when he returned to shore and the fish was confiscated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Law Enforcement.
The fishing boat owner said agents told him the rules do not allow for bluefin tuna to be caught with nets.
"They said it had to be caught with rod and reel," 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."
Authorities said no charges have been filed in the case and it is likely Rafael will receive only a warning.
Bluefin tuna is highly valued in Japan, with a 754-pound catch selling for nearly $396,000 at a Tokyo auction in January.