News Feature

Stonington
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, October 8, 2020
Ben Weed wins a battle with tuna
One silver lining to the pandemic: more local tuna

by Leslie Landrigan

After spending three hours and 12 minutes fighting a tuna on October 4, fisherman Ben Weed finally won the battle. He hauled the fish onto the deck of the Emma and Andrew, gutted it out and put it on ice, then brought it in to the fish pier. The fish weighed 375 pounds. In Weed’s book, that’s a medium tuna. He’s caught three this year that weighed 500 pounds each. In fact, he’s caught six tuna this year. Every time he went out with a rod and reel, he caught one.

“It’s a rush, really, the power of them is unreal,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s one big muscle, they’re strong, they put up quite a fight.”

Once, he said, he spent seven hours fighting a tuna. “It’s exhausting,” he said. “Man vs. beast.”

The pandemic

In past years, Weed said he has done more tuna wishing than tuna catching. Two years ago he caught a couple of tuna. Last year he went out once and didn’t catch a thing.

“When you sit there and don’t catch one it’s frustrating,” he said.

A tuna can fetch a good price—a really good price. In 2019, a Japanese tuna buyer paid $3.1 million for a prize bluefin tuna, according to news reports.

This year has been a good one for catching tuna because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Weed said. With so many restaurants closing, fewer people are buying tuna.

“There’s no market, with all this COVID stuff, no one’s been buying,” Weed said. That means more tuna in the sea, he said.

As a result, regulators advised fishermen this year to make sure a licensed dealer is willing to buy their tuna. “NOAA Fisheries advises commercial bluefin fishermen: Find a buyer BEFORE you go fishing,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration advises on its website.

In Stonington, Coldwater Seafood has been buying Weed’s tuna all summer. “Every time he comes in, we sell out,” said Rena Daigle in a phone interview. “We say, ‘local bluefin tuna,’ and they come in for it.”

Ben Weed’s tuna is available at Coldwater Seafood through next week, Daigle said.