Published on September 12, 2013
This tuna fisher’s throne sat empty as Mitch Lattof, who is part of Tony MacDonald’s L’il Miss Maddy crew, puts out a baited line for tuna on the third day of the 2013 Canada International Tuna Cup Challenge.
Published on September 14, 2013
Tony MacDonald of North Lake was captain of the charter boat that landed the only harvest tuna during the 2013 Canada International Tuna Cup Challenge in North Lake from Sept. 10-13. Process from the sale of the tuna go to Hospice P.E.I.
Guardian photo by Mary MacKay
There was lots of underwater action on the final day of the 2013 Canada International Tuna Cup Challenge.
The first landing Friday was made by Thomas Petersen of Denmark aboard Tony MacDonald’s L’il Miss Maddy, who hooked a blue fin tuna within two minutes of dropping lines off North Lake.
“The best moment was when it actually came into the boat,” this longtime big game sports fisherman said of the only harvested tuna during this catch-and-release competition. The money from the sale of which goes to the Hospice and Palliative Care Association of Prince Edward Island.
There’s been plenty of on-land action in Eastern Kings since the tuna returned after more than 10 years of no-shows. This also ushered in the return of the Tuna Cup Challenge in 2002.
“We started small, with four or five teams. Even in 2007, there was only four teams that year,” says Valerie Flannery, coordinator of the 2013 Tuna Cup Challenge and chair of the Friends of Elmira, which is the host organization for this international event.
“It was probably in 2009 when we first saw that it was major. People were telling us, like the corner store here — Elliott’s — they called us at one point on the second day of the tournament and said, ‘What the heck is going on down there?’ They said it was just ridiculous. They couldn’t believe how much they sold.”
Sponsors such as Vernon d’Eons Lobster Plugs Ltd. and Souris Credit Union jumped onboard.
The Department of Fisheries, Innovation and Tourism has entered a team for the last three years and provide funds to off-set the cost for the media boat to shuffle various members of the press to and from the on-the-water action.
A few of the competitors in the past also posted videos to You Tube, which garnered even more interest.
The big white tent became the outdoor venue for the event three years ago when the Tuna Cup Challenge expanded to include meals and entertainment, the bulk of which are locally sourced.
“We also want the local people to participate. It’s not an exclusive event,” says Tuna Cup chair Floyd Stewart.
“And this year they realized it but it took a lot of signage and a lot of (promotion),” Flannery said.
“But we really saw it (at the entrance) Souris when they put up a big “Welcome anglers” sign. And then other places in Souris started putting up signs on their own — the legion and the Co-op.”
That translated into huge sales at the big tent bar, which provided patrons with local beverages such as the Prince Edward Island Brewing Company, Newman Estate Winery, Prince Edward Distillery and Myriad View Distillery.
“This is the first year that we really saw that there were great big crowds here,” Flannery says.
“Overall they said they did phenomenal at the bar. They said that the first night — the kickoff here — generated the same amount of money as the whole four days of last year.
Local producers, such as P.E.I. Berries, showcased their products, and Artisans on Main in Montague also presented their wares to the participants and the public as well.
The estimated economic impact of the Tuna Cup Challenge is $750,000 to $1 million.
“Even what we’re bringing into the harbour is $100,000 and that’s in actual money we see,” Flannery says.
Don Spears, who owns the Pirates Galley Café in the nearby East Point Lighthouse, did some of the catering for the event.
“There’s an impact financially and an impact culturally. This is a worldwide event. It’s not just a bunch of guys saying, ‘Let’s go hooking some big fish.’ This is a major event. There are people from South Africa, Australia, the United States, England, Scotland, Europe. They all come to this every year.”
Jackie Aitken, who is co-owner of the Blue Fin Restaurant in Souris, was also a meal provider for the Tuna Cup Challenge.
“The impact on our restaurant in the past three years, we could see the tuna charters (overall) is a big business now. The spin-off in the economy around here is wonderful,” she says.
“So we have charters starting in mid-July and going right up until the third week of September, when it starts to die off. In August you see a constant flow of charters coming into the restaurant. It’s wonderful.”
This shoulder season competition adds some extra dollars into other local coffers as well.
Robert and Elora Rose of Lakeville have operated a small bed and breakfast business for almost 40 years from the family homestead, many of those included having patrons from the Tuna Cup Challenge in the past and present.
“I started as an auxiliary home for the motel (in North Lake). If everything else was filled I was on the list to take the leftovers for the ones who didn’t have anywhere to go. The tuna fishery was big at the time,” Elora remembers.
The recent revival of the tuna competition in North Lake has meant a definite upswing in overnight stays for this couple and at other accommodations in Eastern Kings.
It’s also meant more business for tuna charter operators like Carl Gallant of North Rustico.
“Last year there were 25 or 26 (boats chartered) and this year there was 24. Some teams are now booking advance (to solidify their requests for certain captains),” he says.
Massachusetts residents Bill Robinson and Chris Royal were part of this year’s Tuna Cup Challenge.
“Chris is from Martha’s Vineyard. He would have never came to P.E.I. if it wasn’t for this tournament,” says Robinson, who is from Boston but has a summer cottage on the Island.
“I’ve been coming to P.E.I. since I was a boy, but the tuna fishing here is the best in the world. I’d (typically) be on Boston right now but now that this tournament I’m missing a week of work ... It’s an excuse,” he adds with laugh.
“Those two guys from Scotland over there, if it weren’t for the tournament they wouldn’t be here (either) so I don’t think you can put a real dollar amount on it.”
The dollar amount from the sale of the harvested tuna has yet to be determined but the donation is a welcome one for Hospice P.E.I.
“This is the first time ever that we’ve done an event like this or been or heard of anything like it,” says Anne McPhee, who is the hospice bereavement coordinator with the Eastern Kings chapter.
“We’re just thrilled. It’s something that’s unique, exciting and different, and we’re happy that the money raised from the sale of this tuna is going to Hospice P.E.I. to help support our services ...”