Number of tuna off Newfoundland waters on the rise in recent years: DFO
CORNER BROOK Daniel Putt had heard his co-workers at the Barry’s fish plant talking about the tuna they had seen in the Humber Arm over the course of a couple of days last week.
When he finally got to see the large fish himself from the plant’s wharf in the Curling area of Corner Brook, he was kicking himself for not having his phone with him so he could get some images on its camera.
During his lunch break, Putt went to his car and retrieved his phone. Later in the afternoon, he managed to finally get some video footage as his cohorts tossed some dead herring into the waters next to the dock.
In the best video, a sinking herring instantly disappears but it’s too deep to see what took it. Then, just seconds after two more fish are plopped into the water, a large bluefin tuna swoops into clear view and swallows the two herring in one big gulp.
“That was perfect,” Putt is heard saying as he shoots the video. He uploaded the video to his Facebook profile immediately. It has since been shared nearly 100 times.
In an interview earlier this week, Putt said two tuna had apparently been hanging around the fish plant for a couple of days.
“I’ve heard of a scattered shark off there before, but never a tuna,” he said. “A couple of the guys who have been there (at the plant) for 25 or 30 years said they have never seen a tuna. I think it’s strange for them to be in this close. I thought they are usually farther out in deeper water.”
He is right that tuna normally are found further out to sea, but it’s not rare for them to come closer to the shoreline or deep into bays like the Humber Arm.
“It’s not uncommon for them to be in the waters around Newfoundland this time of the year,” said Gary Melvin, a research scientist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans based out of St. Andrews, N.B. “Their presence there has been increasing, though, and we have been getting more and more reports of tuna sightings around Newfoundland in recent years.”
Melvin confirmed the fish in Putt’s video is indeed a bluefin tuna. He could not estimate just how large it was, but said the fish was definitely “several hundred pounds.”
Melvin said the tuna had likely chased a food source, probably a school of herring or mackerel, into the bay and were hanging around to feed off the bait fish before heading back out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Bluefin tuna are found throughout the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but are usually more concentrated in the west near Prince Edward Island, where there is a major tuna fishery. Melvin said scientists don’t know why they seem to be finding their way east over to Newfoundland more in recent years, but DFO is investigating.
“We have a sampling program scheduled for this fall,” he said. “One of our technicians will be over there sampling and actually trying to tag some of the fish to see where they go.”
Melvin was not sure where that tagging would be taking place, but suspected it would likely be off the eastern coast of the province as there has been a lot of anecdotal evidence of tuna in the Conception Bay area. He said it will depend on where the reports of tuna being sighted come from.
“We have someone on standby,” he said. “They are usually only there for a few days and then disappear again.”