(CNN) — A fishing crew lost more than $3 million in prize money after the 600-pound blue marlin they caught was disqualified due to ‘mutilation’ caused by a shark or other sea animal, according to a statement from the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament. .
The crew of the Sensation caught the huge marlin as part of a week-long fishing derby in Morehead City, North Carolina. According to the tournament website, the marlin gave the crew a fight of more than six hours before being caught on Saturday night.
The tournament broadcast the boat’s return to shore live and the audience cheered as the marlin was hoisted into the air and weighed.
But soon a problem appeared.
“Okay guys, let’s talk about the rules for a minute,” said Tommy Bennett, Big Rock board member and host of the live show. “Looks like this fish was bitten by a shark.”
Sure enough, a photo of the happy crew and the suspended marlin shows that the fish had visible injuries on the underside and near the tail.
On Sunday, the tournament announced that it had consulted with experts and that Sensation’s blue marlin had been disqualified.
“After extensive deliberation and discussion between the Big Rock Rules Committee and the Board of Directors with biologists from North Carolina State CMAST and North Carolina Marine Fisheries Biologists, as well as a official of the International Sport Fishing Association’ The Sensation’s 600-pound blue marlin was ruled ineligible due to mutilation by a shark or other marine animal. The fish was deemed to have been mutilated before being landed or shipped and was therefore not eligible,” the tournament said.
“This decision is consistent with previous decisions made by the tournament in similar circumstances over the past 65 years,” the tournament added.
The Sensation reportedly brought in $3.5 million for the catch, including more than $700,000 for the first boat to reel in a marlin over 500 pounds, or 226 kilograms.
Instead, the Sushi boat crew, who caught a 219-kilogram blue marlin, took first place in the tournament, along with a cash prize of $2,769,438.
However, Sensation captain Greg McCoy believes his ship won the tournament, he told CNN on Tuesday.
“We worked hard, we felt like what we did with that fish was amazing, we knew we had won the tournament,” he said. “I knew this fish was going to beat the rest of the fish in the weight class, and he did just that. We followed all the rules. There was nothing nefarious or cheating or anything. something like that from us.”
“We feel like it was taken away from us,” he added.
The captain said he thinks the tournament arbitrarily applies the rules differently from year to year.
“The tournament is about catching the biggest fish. We caught the biggest fish. I’m not a resentful person. I’m not a bad loser. We won the tournament. We caught the biggest fish,” did he declare. “As they say, put that in your pipe and smoke it.”
The blue marlin, known for its lance-shaped bill, can measure up to 4.2 meters in length and weigh 900 kilograms. The Big Rock tournament record was set in 2019, when the crew of Top Dog landed a 900-pound marlin. A total of 271 boats participated in this year’s tournament.
The world of competitive fishing was rocked last year when winning fish in an Ohio tournament were found to be stuffed with sinkers and fish fillets. The anglers, who were caught cheating on camera, were disqualified and lost nearly $29,000 in prize money and later pleaded guilty.
“A Bitter Drink”
The Sensation’s owner, captain and crew have engaged the Wheatly Law Group to represent them in their efforts and are on a “quest” to overturn the disqualification, attorney Stevenson L. Weeks told CNN. A protest of the results on behalf of the boat was filed with the tournament by 11 a.m. Sunday, it said.
“Tournament rules require that this dispute be arbitrated and, if not resolved through mediation, it will be referred to arbitration pursuant to the North Carolina Revised Uniform Arbitration Act,” he said, referring to the Dispute Resolution section of the Official Tournament Rules. .
Ashley Bleau, owner of Sensation, told CNN by phone on Tuesday that she was confident in her case and would like to see the tournament rules changed to clarify the issue.
“Most importantly, I want clarity for everyone else in the future, so anglers can feel safe…that they won’t be hurt at the last minute for something that doesn’t benefit them at all” , did he declare.
“We’ve gone from glory to defeat. It’s a bitter pill to swallow,” McCoy said.
Had he won, McCoy would have received 10% of the $3.5 million, a total he described as “life-changing”.
“I’m getting older. I have to think about my future. I have young children, 18 and 20, and I could have helped them a lot. I’m a hard-working guy. I pay my bills, and that money would have been reserved for my children,” he said. “I feel like we’ve earned it.”