The bluefin tuna fishery off the coast of Nova Scotia has a long history from it’s early beginnings as a commercial fishery during the early days of the 20th century, when the fishery was conducted by harpoon, with the fish being shipped to the United States, where on a good day one would receive as much as $0.09 per pound for their catch.
It would remain mostly a commercial fishery until an interest developed in the 1930’s to catch these prized game fish by rod and reel. Early landings by angling gear were recorded in such places as Liverpool, Shelburne, Jordan, Lunenburg, Chester, Mahone Bay and LaHave, along the provinces south shore as well as St. Ann’s Bay and the Sydney Bight in Cape Breton, but the best know of all was Wedgeport.
From 1935 to the mid -1960’s, the community of Wedgeport, located at the south western tip of Nova Scotia was know as the bluefin tuna game fishing capitol of the world. These magnificant game fish were attracted to the shores of Wedgeport by the abundance of bait-fish, making the Tusket River and the Tuna Rip ideal bluefin tuna fishing hot-spots.
The rod and reel fishery for bluefin tuna began in 1935 when, well know angler, Michael Lerner and his fishing guide Captain Tommy Gifford learned of the abundance of tuna in waters off Wedgeport. Although attempts to catch bluefin by rod and reel in Wedgeport were not new, Lerner became the first successful angler to land a bluefin. To everyone’s delight and amazement, he caught five bluefin during his first fishing trip to Wedgeport.
In 1937, through the efforts of S. Kip Farrington Jr, the first International Tuna Cup Match was organized in Wedgeport. Over the years, twenty eight different countries participated in the International Tuna Cup Match, competeing for the Alton B. Sharp Cup, the 5th oldest trophy in international sport.
Hundreds of bluefin were caught each year and Wedgeport became a tuna fishing Mecca. In 1949, seventy two bluefin tuna were caught during the International Tuna Cup Match with a total weight of 30,161 pounds.
The bluefin tuna fishery, off the coast of Nova Scotia, would remain mostly a sport fish fishery until the early 1970’s, when a demand for “sushimi” grade bluefin tuna and the availability of relatively cheap air freight, allowed access to the Japanese market.
Today, bluefin tuna are abundant along the coast of Nova Scotia from the Bay of Fundy to Cape Breton Island, coming into the cooler Canadian waters to feed, on abundant bait-fish, from early July to November each year. Members of the South West Nova Tuna Association, follow in the footsteps of their ancesters, harvesting the highest quality bluefin tuna available, on short trips, using rod and reel, tended line and harpoon.