Carlos Rafael is living a 21st century rendition of Hemmingway's classic "The Old Man and the Sea," the Cape Cod Times notes, except in this case the sea is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Law Enforcement.
After the crew on a boat Rafael owns captured a giant bluefin tuna in the waters near Cape Cod, Rafael hoped to the sell the fish and perhaps net a something similar to the $396,000 that a 745-pound specimen sold for at an auction in Tokyo back in January. Rafael's catch was 881 pounds.
However, the Times reports that Rafael received a rude awakening when his boat sought shelter in Provincetown Harbor on November 12:
"The authorities were waiting. Agents from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Law Enforcement informed him they were confiscating his fish — all 881 pounds of it.
Even though the catch had been declared and the boat had a tuna permit, the rules do not allow fishermen to catch bluefin tuna in a net.
'They said it had to be caught with rod and reel,' a frustrated 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.”
In any case, after being towed for more than two hours in the net, the fish was already dead when the Apollo hauled back its gear, he said."
Rafael told the Times that he purchased 15 tuna permits for his groundfish boats over the last four years and immediately called a bluefin tuna hot line maintained by fishery regulators to report the catch when it happened. Rafael's crew had unwittingly captured the giant tuna in their trawl gear rather than rod and reel.
“What are we supposed to do?” Rafael told the Times. “I think I'm going to surrender all my tuna permits now. What good are they if I can't catch them?”
A public affairs specialist with NOAA told the Times that the fish has been forfeited and will be sold on consignment overseas. Proceeds from the sale of the fish will be held in an account pending final resolution of the case, NOAA said.
Rafael has expressed concerns in the past over the impact of governmental regulation on small business. Take a look at this video from just last year: