Bluefin Tagged Off Virginia is Recaptured near Spain

A tuna’s odyssey: seven years, 5,000 miles and 576 pounds later

bluefin release 2007
bluefin release 2007
A quick snapshot of the small bluefin tuna caught by Di Ortiz before Ken Neill tagged and released it back out transom door through which it had been pulled onto the deck (no gaff was used).Courtesy Ken Neill

Fishing Washington Canyon off Virginia on July 18, 2007, Ken Neill and friends had a good day, catching yellowfin and bluefin. They kept one of the latter and tagged a second.

In June, 2014, fishermen recaptured that tagged fish — near Malta, in the Mediterranean, a straight-line distance of nearly 5,000 miles, according to information Neill just received from The Billfish Foundation.

The tuna was then kept in a pen until it was fattened and harvested in November of that year (2014). In seven and a half years, Neill’s tuna grew from about 40 pounds to approximately 616 pounds.

Neill, an IGFA rep from Virginia Beach and avid angler, works closely with Dr. John Graves, a professor at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. In fact, the primary impetus of Neill’s July 18 visit to the canyon was the hope of tagging small bluefin for VIMS.

The bluefin’s trans-Atlantic crossing is yet another instance of what scientists have come to realize — the free mixing of eastern and western bluefin tuna stocks. Graves says the tuna caught off Virginia was likely spawned in the Mediterranean, to which it had returned.