Four Palm Beach County men caught a bluefin tuna weighing more than 700 pounds off Boynton Beach earlier this week, but the fish may land them in hot water with federal and state law enforcement agencies.
NOAA Fisheries spokeswoman Kim Amendola confirmed the tuna has been seized by law enforcement officers and that her agency is investigating the case jointly with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Confirmed FWC spokeswoman Carli Segelson: “We are working with our federal partners to see if any violations occurred and what those might be.”
No charges have been filed.
Unconfirmed reports circulating on social media such as Facebook and online fishing forums say the four men were deep-dropping in the daytime targeting swordfish off Boynton Beach when they hooked the tuna, boated it, brought it to shore, and then tried to sell it.
Bluefin tuna — one of the most expensive seafood delicacies on earth — are subject to strict federal and state regulations including specific permits required to land and sell fish, along with bag and size limits and seasonal closures. All fish sold are tagged and tracked individually. Selling bluefins without the proper permits can bring fines of tens of thousands of dollars.
According to Scott Taylor, one of the owners of Day Boat Seafood in Lake Park, someone approached his company last week trying to sell the fish. He checked around and became suspicious about the paperwork.
“With the buzz around the fish and the stories about how the fish was caught and handled, we became concerned,” Taylor said Saturday. “We were contacted by the [NOAA] office of law enforcement, and we were fully cooperative with them.”