Members of a competitive fishing crew are filing a protest after their enormous catch was disqualified from a tournament in North Carolina because of a shark bite. The team, called Sensation, had competed alongside more than 200 other groups in the the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament on Sunday, and their catch — a blue marlin weighing 619.4 pounds — would have won prize money totalling about $3.5 million.
Sensation’s crew would have received $2.77 million for taking first place and another $739,500 for catching the first fish of the year that weighed more 500 pounds, CBS Sports reported. But the crew did not win the tournament, nor did team members receive any monetary reward, despite the blue marlin’s size. Tournament officials said the marlin could not be considered eligible because it appeared that a shark had taken a bite out of the fish before it was caught.
“After careful deliberation and discussions between the Big Rock Rules Committee and Board of Directors with biologists from both NC State CMAST and NC Marine Fisheries biologists as well as an IGFA official, it was determined that Sensation’s 619.4 lb. Blue Marlin is disqualified due to mutilation caused by a shark or other marine animal,” tournament officials said in a statement shared to Facebook on Sunday. “It was deemed that the fish was mutilated before it was landed or boated and therefore it was disqualified.”
The Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament follows rules already set by the International Game Fishing Association, tournament officials added.
“IGFA rules state that the following situation will disqualify a fish: ‘Mutilation to the fish, prior to landing or boating the catch, caused by sharks, other fish, mammals, or propellers that remove or penetrate the flesh,'” tournament officials said. “This decision is consistent with prior decisions made by the tournament in similar circumstances over the last 65 years.”
Sushi, the name of another team that competed in the tournament, was declared the winner after Sensation’s disqualification. That team rose to first place with their 484.5-pound catch. Additional teams that took second and third place in the blue marlin tournament had catches weighing 479.8 pounds and 470.2 pounds, respectively.
Ashley Bleu, who owns the Sensation boat from which the fishing team took its name, filed a protest after the tournament decision was finalized, CBS affiliate WNCT reported.
“The problem we have is we’ve got an interpretation of a rule that necessarily isn’t as clear as everybody seems to think … There’s three dots behind Big Rock’s announcement that leaves a lot of language behind it that wasn’t disclosed,” Bleau said, according to WNCT.
“We’re at the Big Rock Landing finding out that, they jump on board, start poking around and they’re like, ‘Oh well this seems to be an issue,'” Bleau added. “They said, ‘It looked like a shark bite.’ I can tell you from the bottom of my heart, nobody on that boat ever saw a shark.”