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Shark bites oust 619-pound marlin from fishing tourney and $3.5M prize

June 19 (UPI) -- Anglers missed out on a $3.5 million prize after a 619-pound blue marlin they caught at a North Carolina fishing tournament was disqualified because of bite marks, possibly caused by a shark, tournament officials said.

The Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament started June 12 and ended Sunday with an awards brunch in Morehead City, N.C. A boat called Sensation reeled in the 619.4-pound fish Saturday, ending a fight of more than 6 hours off the 52-foot Jarrett Bay vessel.

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That fish, had it been ruled eligible, would have reeled in a $2.77 million first-place prize and an additional $739,500 as the first 500-pound-plus haul at the tournament.

But officials said that the fish appeared to have been bitten by a shark, and they found a large chunk of its flesh missing during the weigh-in process.

International Game Fish Association rules state that a fish is ineligible to win if it sustains such damage before "landing or boating." Flesh penetrating or removing damage, caused by sharks, other fish, mammals or propellers, results in disqualification.

"We don't get a plaque on the Big Rock fountain, we don't get the dough," Sensation captain Greg McCoy told the Carteret County News-Times. "A year from now, we will be totally forgotten. No one will care."

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McCoy told the News-Times that boat owner Ashley Bleau is protesting the decision for disqualification. He also said the parties will contemplate legal action.

"After careful deliberation and discussions between the Big Rock rules committee and board of directors with biologists ... as well as an IGFA official, it was determined that Sensation's 619.4lb Blue Marlin is disqualified due to mutilation caused by a shark or other marine animal," tournament officials said in a news release.

"It was deemed that the fish was mutilated before it was landed or boated and therefore it was disqualified."

Fish injuries caused by leaders or line, scratches, old healed scars or regeneration deformities do not cause disqualification.

The boat Sushi, which hauled in a 484.5-pound blue marlin, was named the winner of the tournament and cashed in a $2.77 million prize. A total of 271 boats participated in the 65th edition of the tournament.

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