Regulation of the Day 199: How to Catch a Tuna

Carlos Rafael owns over 40 fishing boats that work the waters off of New Bedford, Connecticut. One his boats recently caught an 881-pound bluefin tuna — one of the biggest catches ever made (the record is 1,496 pounds). Authorities quickly confiscated the fish.

Fishing is a heavily regulated industry, and Rafael took every precaution to make sure his giant catch was within the rules:

Rafael, who in the last four years purchased 15 tuna permits for his groundfish boats to cover just such an eventuality, immediately called a bluefin tuna hot line maintained by fishery regulators to report the catch.

When the weather offshore deteriorated, the Apollo decided to seek shelter in Provincetown Harbor on Nov. 12. Rafael immediately set off in a truck to meet the boat…

However, when Rafael rolled down the dock in Provincetown there was an unexpected and unwelcome development. The authorities were waiting.

So he had a permit, he let authorities know right away, let them know it was an accidental catch, and they still took it away. Why?

Because Rafael’s men caught it with a net. Bluefin tuna are only allowed to be caught with fishing rods.

A dejected Rafael told the Cape Cod Times, “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.”

At this point, it appears that Rafael will not be charged with a crime. The government, however, will sell his fish and keep the money. Most people would call this stealing; the government calls it asset forfeiture.