First-place honors at the 2023 Casco Bay Bluefin Bonanza went to the crew of My Three Blondes for catching a 756-pound bluefin tuna. Bluefin tuna will soon be more available in Maine as the season ramps up. Courtesy of Casco Bay Bluefin Bonanza

In a couple of days, we officially begin the fall season. This Saturday is the fall equinox, when the hours of daylight equal those of night. But the balance literally tips, going forward into fall, as Earth begins to tilt away from the sun and the hours of sunlight each day sadly decrease in the Northern Hemisphere.

The shift in season, however, doesn’t mean the end of all seemingly summery activities. For example, in Maine, fall is one of the most productive seasons for our fisheries. In fact, October is Seafood Month, and I’ll certainly be writing more about that when the time comes. In the meantime, one fishery that is dramatic and persists into the fall is Maine’s bluefin tuna fishery. There are many different systems used to manage fisheries, many of which I have written about in this column. The bluefin fishery is managed by a quota system. That means fishermen can catch a certain amount and then have to stop, rather than being managed by days at sea, for example. The bluefin fishery is also limited in season; it is open for six months starting in June. That means that even though it is September, we still have October and November to enjoy bluefin. But at this point in the month, we will have to wait until October to find local bluefin again since the quota for September has already been filled. Each month, once the quota is reached, the fishery closes until the beginning of the next month.

Tuna fishing is serious business given the effort it requires to catch one of these incredibly strong, fast and sometimes quite large fish. If you’ve been out on the water and noticed a tall tower on top of a fishing boat, that’s likely a tuna tower that is used to spot the fish from above. Some fishermen also search for tuna by air when possible. Tuna are caught by hook and line, the fishermen sometimes being strapped into a “fighting chair” to prevent being pulled in. Tuna fishing is also serious business because the fight is often worth the effort given the price that tuna can fetch — sometimes as much as $15,000 for a fish of the highest grade!

Not all tuna is caught by hook and line, however. Sometimes they are harpooned and sometimes a purse seine net is used. Or there’s a very unique technique used only by fishermen in Sardinia, where I was lucky enough to live for a couple of years and got to learn about the technique but sadly never see. On the island of San Pietro off the southwestern coast of Sardinia, every spring, fishermen participate in la mattanza which means “the slaughter.” They’ve been doing this for thousands of years and it is a celebrated tradition in the village of Carloforte. The fishermen set out a complex series of nets called “tonnara” that lead the bluefin into smaller and smaller spaces until they reach la camera della morte, or “death chamber,” whereupon fishermen then spear them and bleed them out. The result is a highly prized product. A 6-ounce can of Carloforte tuna goes for around $40.

If you’re looking to enjoy some bluefin from Maine over the next couple of months, SoPo Seafood in South Portland not only has Maine bluefin when it is available but also provides a nice summary of information about the fishery as well as recipes ( Or if you’re like me and want to hold on to summer as long as possible in one form or another, you can enjoy Maine bluefin all year long by buying it canned. Gulf of Maine Conservas ( is a great, small company that sells tinned bluefin as well as mackerel and smoked eel. Or if you’re just looking for some entertainment, watching videos of bluefin fishing either in the Gulf of Maine or of la mattanza is pretty impressive.

Susan Olcott is the director of operations at Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association.

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