A fisherman who caught a 400-pound bluefin tuna out of season and dumped its headless carcass in the woods paid a steep price for his misdeeds.
On the day his trial was about to begin, Harold Wentworth, 41, of Gloucester, Mass., instead pled guilty Monday to charges of littering from a vehicle, improper disposal of waste and driving with a suspended license, according to the Gloucester Times.
Peabody District Court Judge James Barretto fined Wentworth $1,000 after confirming he had already paid a federal fine of $15,000 for the illegal catch that reportedly drew international attention in 2017. Wentworth was also placed on a year of probation.
“The commercial fishing industry is in turmoil for a variety of reasons I won’t go into,” Barretto said, according to the Times. “For hundreds of years, the people of Gloucester have earned a living by going to sea. The fleet has shrunken so dramatically it’s a national story. Taking tuna out of season makes that job much more difficult.”
A rumor spread quickly about a bluefin tuna being unloaded at the Pigeon Cove Fishermen’s Co-Op in Rockport on Nov. 20, 15 days after the season had ended, prosecutor Heidi Sylvanowicz told the judge. Surveillance video showed the bluefin being off-loaded from the boat Went-Way and investigators later found surveillance camera images of a truck dragging the fish down the road.
The decapitated bluefin tuna was discovered three days later in the woods owned by the New England Forestry Foundation. Tally’s tow truck company was called in to remove the headless bluefin tuna.
The prosecutor said the original plan was to put the fish on ice until it could be sold on the black market. The tuna was said to be worth upwards of $10,000.
“It was clear the individual knew it was out of season,” Sylvanowicz said, adding that the illegal act was “extremely offensive to the fishing community.”
The fish wound up being donated to a local farm for compost.
By David Strege Find David Strege and the outdoors on Facebook.
Photo courtesy of Tally’s tow truck company.