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Wedgeport Tuna Tournament Celebrating 20th Anniversary

While the official dates for this year’s Wedgeport Tuna Tournament are Aug. 17 to 24, the celebrations will extend beyond that.

Not only is the tournament celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the region will be welcoming visitors from near and far for the 2024 World Acadian Congress (Congrès mondial acadien 2024) being held Aug. 10 to 18.

“Because of the Congrès, there’s going to be thousands and thousands of people in Southwestern Nova Scotia, so we are looking at maybe doing events during the Congrès,” said Brandon Doucette, president of the Wedgeport Tuna Tournament Association, such as some kids’ events and maybe an Acadian cooking class.

As for the tournament itself, organizers are hoping to increase the number of boats participating this year from 16 to 20.

“We are hoping and still working on figuring out the details but we’re hoping to have 20 boats for our 20th anniversary,” said Doucette. “For the past six or seven years, we’ve had to limit the number of boats to 16 because of quota restrictions. We only have so much quota. This year we’ve been talking with the commercial fishermen and we think we’re going to be able to buy additional quota.”

Doucette said an increase from 16 to 20 boats doesn’t sound like a lot, but it represents 25 per cent more boats increasing the whole tournament by 25 per cent, notably the number of participants.  “We’re excited,” he said.

The 32 members of the South West Nova Tuna Association each donate 100 pounds of bluefin quota to the tournament every year, but there are other members who have donated quota in the past, said Doucette. “One in particular from Wedgeport in the past few years he has been donating an additional 2,500 to 3,000 pounds. It’s from him we think we’re going to be able to buy additional quota.”

Usually on average the tournament has 6,000 pounds of bluefin tuna quota. “If we do have 20 boats, we’re probably looking at 10,000 pounds of quota dressed weight,” said Doucette.

Last year’s bluefin tuna catch was the highest recorded weight and highest average weight per bluefin in the tournament’s history. The 14 bluefin weighed a combined 8,603 pounds. Only six big eye, weighing a combined 738 pounds and one albacore weighing 34 pounds, were caught last year.

In 2022, 11 bluefin were landed weighing a combined 5,046 pounds; 86 big eye (10,306 pounds) and 103 albacore (3,878 pounds).

This year’s tournament will include events similar to past years although there may be events added to the line-up such as an escape room, said Doucette. In addition to the seafood extravaganza in the festival tent at the Wedgeport Tuna Wharf on Friday night (Aug. 23) there will be a DJ dance party from 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Saturday night at the closing banquet, the Halifax band Shameless will be taking to the stage.

The fishing boats will leave for the tuna fishing grounds on Aug. 20 (Tuesday). Weigh-ins will start the next evening depending on the catch and continue until Saturday morning (Aug. 24). Once a bluefin is landed, the boat must come in. The weigh-ins are held at the Wedgeport Breakwater Wharf.

Doucette said tournament weigh-ins will be confirmed daily through advertising and social media.