Accidental catch of massive tuna benefits Belfast Soup Kitchen

Published: Sep. 28, 2021 at 4:48 PM EDT
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BELFAST, Maine (WABI) - Many fishermen have a story about “the one that got away.” Recently, one Maine crew had the opposite experience with an accidental catch of a lifetime.

Tuesday, their roughly 600-pound tuna made for a special afternoon at the Belfast Soup Kitchen.

“It’s like anything in life. Anything can happen,” said Ross Alex, captain of the Kathryn Ann.

Earlier this month, Alex was out fishing for lobster bait off the coast of Belfast. He says it was just his second time setting nets for pogie since he’s become a captain.

“We saw some fish kind of popping off the surface, so we were getting ready to set, and we made our set and kind of hauled our net back. The fish went gone. We were like, ‘Where did they go?’ We got our net, like, three-quarters of the way back, and there was a tuna!” said Alex.

There was one major problem.

“By law, you’re supposed to release it. You’re not supposed to have that,” said Jamie Steeves, owner of J&J Lobsters.

But they didn’t want it to go to waste.

”It couldn’t be revived. It was too entangled in the net. They realized the fish was going to be a loss,” said Doug Shartzer, who’s a friend of Steeves.

Steeves called one of his contacts at Maine Marine Patrol.

“I explained the situation. Thankfully, he made the right calls to see if we could get rid of it,” said Steeves.

His next call was to Shartzer.

“Jamie called me, and he goes, ‘You’re my guy.’ He said we were probably going to need to get it cut up and find a place to donate it,” said Shartzer.

After getting the okay from the state, Shartzer made a call to the Belfast Soup Kitchen, which agreed to take the tuna. On Tuesday, about 350 servings were prepared to feed the community.

Belfast Soup Kitchen
Belfast Soup Kitchen(WABI)

“Never expected it, no, but I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for the people of Waldo County, for us to be able to give them this through Belfast Soup Kitchen,” said Cherie Merrill, Belfast Soup Kitchen executive director.

“I thought it was the most wonderful thing in the world!” said Joe Berry, guest at Belfast Soup Kitchen.

“We do the menus for the Belfast Soup Kitchen a week ahead of time. Everybody was looking for it. It wasn’t on the menu last week, so we made sure we put it on the menu this week. And when I put it on, I said, ‘Yes, the big tuna,’” said Merrill.

Steeves estimates the market value of the tuna would’ve been about $10,000. However, it’s not something they’re dwelling on.

“It makes my heart feel good to see all the people coming and going, benefiting from it,” said Steeves.

“It’s not about the money always in life. It’s about helping other people, too, that can’t really do much, and they don’t have much. We live in a really good community, you know? And I’m really happy to be here,” said Alex.

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