A total of 200 tuna, including 11 bluefins, weighing a total of 19,053 pounds, were caught during the 18th annual Wedgeport Tuna Tournament and Festival from Aug. 20–27.
Sixteen fishing boats carrying 125 people participated in this year’s tournament, leaving for the fishing grounds on Aug. 23. Pending the arrival of the boats back to port, tuna weigh-ins were held each evening starting Aug. 24 through to the morning of Aug. 27.
The Jordyn & Hailey captained by John Malone was the winner of the Milton J. LeBlanc Memorial Tuna Cup for the heaviest bluefin caught, which weighed in at 716 pounds. The heaviest bluefin from the “Hell Hole” was landed by the Sea Devil, captained by Colin Babin (472 pounds). The Robyn Jade, captained by Stephen d’Entremont, had the heaviest overall weight (4,525 pounds).
“It was such a good year,” said Brandon Doucette, president of the Wedgeport Tuna Tournament Association. “We had so many fish. Number-wise, it was the second highest number of tuna we ever caught. The last time we had more was in 2012. That year was almost all albacore, but this year almost half of the fish were bigeye.”
A total of 86 bigeye tuna weighing 10,129 pounds was landed at this year’s tournament. The 11 bluefin weighed a total of 5,046 pounds, while the 103 albacore tipped the scales in total at 3,878 pounds.
Doucette said while not all the boats landed a bluefin, “all the boats got fish. They all had plenty of bigeye and albacore.”
As with past tuna tournaments, DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) Science was wharf side for the weigh-ins to collect samples and data.
“Over here we’re collecting muscle tissue from albacore and bigeye tuna for diet studies,” said Nathan Stewart, DFO biologist out of St. Andrews, N.B., and a PhD student with the University of Windsor, ON.
At another location, the otoliths, or ear bones, were being collected from bluefin tuna heads to determine age. Bluefin tuna muscle tissue is also collected for genetics to determine which spawning stock the fish came from, said Stewart.
“We collect measurements as well. That all feeds into long standing programs for the large Pelagics group that contribute to assessments and ultimately management of the species,” said Stewart.
This year, fishermen held onto the bluefin stomachs so DFO science can do a diet analysis for that species. “We definitely appreciate all the fishers for hanging on to samples for us,” said Stewart. “Collaborating with industry is a huge, huge benefit to our program so we’re really grateful for all that.”