In a dramatic turn of events at the 65th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament in Morehead City, North Carolina, a 619.4-pound blue marlin was disqualified, costing the crew of the Sensation over $3.5 million in prize money.
The Sensation, a Morehead City-based boat captained by Greg McCoy, had landed what they believed to be the winning catch on the final day of the tournament. However, the joy was short-lived as the fish was disqualified due to apparent shark bite marks on its flesh.
The Catch and the Disqualification
The crew aboard the Sensation hooked the blue marlin shortly after 2 p.m. and fought the fish until they boated it after 8 p.m. The fish was the first catch of the year to surpass the 500-pound mark, which would have earned the crew an additional $739,500.
However, when tournament officials weighed the marlin, they found a chunk missing from its side and disqualified it.
The International Game Fish Association (IGFA) rules state that a fish is ineligible to win if it suffers damage “prior to landing or boating the catch, caused by sharks, other fish, mammals, or propellers that remove or penetrate the flesh.”
The “Mutilation Rule” by IGFA Explained
The rationale behind the “Mutilation” rule is to prevent anglers from claiming a prize for a fish that was not caught in its entirety.
If a shark or other predator damages a fish before it is caught, it may be easier to reel in because it is injured and less able to fight. This would give the angler an unfair advantage.
Similarly, if a boat’s propeller damages a fish, it could indicate that the boat was used to corral or injure the fish, which is against the principles of fair sport fishing.
The rule also serves a conservation purpose. If a fish is severely injured, it may not survive even if it is released back into the water. By disqualifying damaged fish, the IGFA encourages anglers to release injured fish immediately, increasing their chances of survival.
In the case of the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, the rule was applied to disqualify a 619-pound blue marlin caught by the boat Sensation because the fish had apparent bite marks on its flesh, indicating a shark or other marine animal had attacked it before it was caught.
This decision was indeed controversial, but it seems to be in line with the IGFA’s rules and the principles of fair competition and conservation.
The Aftermath and Controversy
The disqualification has sparked controversy and debate among the fishing community. Captain McCoy expressed his disappointment, stating, “It’s the final hour, the final day, and we fought with him for six hours. It’s a tough pill to swallow.” The Sensation’s crew, along with many others on social media, have pointed out discrepancies in the enforcement of the IGFA rules, citing previous instances where mutilated fish were not disqualified.
The owner of the Sensation, Ashley Bleau, is protesting the decision and contemplating legal action. The disqualification has led to a significant financial loss for the crew, who would have netted the Level V Fabulous Fisherman’s prize of $739,500, in addition to the first-place purse, resulting in a $3.5 million award.
Following the disqualification, the boat Sushi, captained by Charley Pereira and based out of Nags Head, was declared the winner of the 65th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament. Sushi reeled in a marlin weighing 484.5 pounds, securing the tournament title and a $2.77 million first prize.
Quote from Captain Via: Washington Post