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Friday, October 8, 2010

Front Page News

What follows is my first front page story for our local paper:
The Guysborough Journal.

Billy Bond and crew land the big one

By Lois Ann Dort

CANSO- Living by the sea, we’ve all heard the story about the big one that got away, but have you ever heard a tale like this?

Bill Bond of Canso, skipper of the Melissa and Poppa III left last week for the giant blue fin tuna fishing grounds for the two-day season open off the shores of Ballantyne Cove, Antigonish County. He and mate Kenny Snow of Fox Island, set out at 6 am on Tuesday morning, September 28, not knowing the drama that would soon unfold.

About an hour after steaming out of Ballantyne’s Cove, the fisherman were baiting their hook with herring. The baited hook lying across the side of the boat was just too tempting for one fish. It pulled up alongside the boat and swiped the bait and the battle began.

Ken Snow manned the rod and played out the line to let the giant tire himself out, while Bill Bond commanded the wheel. “You have to be sure not to get the line nicked by the boat when you have a fish on; the tension on the line is so great that it will easily break and then you’ve lost your fish and a $300 spool of line,” comments Bill as he describes the one hour and 45 minute ordeal.

Although, the fisherman had seen the fish as it grabbed the bait, it wasn’t until they hauled it up alongside the boat that they knew the size of their catch. Bill Bond explains:

“It didn’t feel any different than any other fish we’d caught in the past. Sometimes a young fish will give you as much fight or more. We were surprised when we saw it.” And well you might be surprised to haul up a fish that weighed in at 1,110 pounds, the largest fish landed in the Gulf to date.

Bill Bond has been a fisherman all his life and has been fishing the giant blue fin tuna for the past eight years. He’s caught fish every season, most of them weighing, on average, between 500 to 600 pounds.

He’s seen some big fish before and heard of some fantastic payouts but things have changed in the industry in the past decade and he doesn’t expect to be buying a new truck on the back of this catch. “Years ago, in the heyday of the fishery, there was a father and son team that got 50 and 55 dollars a pound for their catch. Iexpect Imight get between seven and eight, it all depends on thequality of the fish and the quantity on the market,” says Bond. And the market is volatile.

Blue fin tuna caught in Atlantic Canada is sold by auction to buyers in Japan, where the fresh flesh of the big fish is a prized item on the menu of many sushi bars. This past spring, the market received a shock when the United States proposed a ban on Atlantic blue fin tuna exports to the United Nations wildlife meeting. The proposed ban was quashed but the threat to the fishery in Atlantic Canada has not disappeared. Fishing practices in the Mediterranean, where boats use nets that scoop up entire schools of blue fin tuna, have caused concern about the depletion of stocks globally.

Bill Bond describes the difference between the European fishing model and what happens in Atlantic Canada: Tuna fisherman in Nova Scotia pursue these gigantic fish with rod and reel alone, no wenches or other mechanical devices are used to haul in the catch, just pure sweat and blood manpower. The season in the Gulf is open for two days. In that time, the quota of 50,000 tons is met. We only fish mature tuna, although there appears to be more juveniles year upon year. As for the last of the giant blue fin-Ican’t see it. Everybody should be fishing rod and reel.

Atlantic Canadian fisherman can only hope that the rest of the world will adopt their fishing practices and conserve the giant blue fin while still prospering from it’s tasty flesh. This path will ensure that this is not the last big fish tale you read.

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