Fishermen donate massive 600-pound tuna to Maine soup kitchen

What’s a fisherman to do when he accidentally catches a 600-pound Atlantic bluefin tuna, one of the most prized fishes in the world?

That’s a dilemma Jamie Steeves, owner of J & J Lobster, was recently faced with.

After a few calls, Steeves donated the massive catch to a soup kitchen that was able to harvest more than 330 pounds of fish, which equaled about 350 meals.

Recently, Steeves’ fishing crew were out catching bait near Belfast, Maine when they thought they had caught a seal in their net.

But when they reeled it in, they realized it was a gigantic bluefin tuna.

“It’s beyond wildest dreams. It’s probably the biggest one landed in the state this year,” Steeves said. “What we saw, a person could fish five lifetimes and it wouldn’t happen.”

And while the crew was excited for the massive catch, they quickly became concerned because they weren’t licensed to bring in the large tuna.

Steeves contacted Maine State Department of Marine Fisheries.

“I said, ‘Matt, we got a problem.”

They suggested the fishermen find a local charity, and if they did they would be allowed to bring the fish in. Otherwise it would need to be released.

By the time he got off the phone, the tuna, which had been in their net, had died.

Steeves contacted Doug Shartzer, a semi-retired fisherman, and he got to work trying to find a place that would accept such a large donation.

“He cold-called, asking ‘Can you use a 600-pound tuna?’” Cherie Merrill, the executive director of the Belfast Soup Kitchen, told Bangor Daily News.

“I never say no to anything, but all I could picture was dropping this 600-pound fish off at the door.”

Merrill didn’t need to worry. Shartzer spent several hours breaking down the fish and processing it into tuna steaks and toro sushi.

Harbor Patrol even supplied him with coolers to transport the fish to the soup kitchen.

This week the tuna was served to those who utilize the soup kitchen.

Merrill estimated they were able to get 350 meals out of the tuna. They also plan to use some of the higher end pieces of meat during a fundraiser.

“Talk about local,” Merrill said. “We distributed 10,000 pounds of local produce last month. To add fish caught in the ocean to that is very exciting.”

What an awesome way to give back to the community!

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