The New York harbor typically isn't on any fishermen's list of best places to cast their rods, but an unprecedented boom in huge bluefin tunas has lured in fishing enthusiasts to the Big Apple in droves.
Fishermen say they normally have to go a hundred miles offshore to reel the endangered fish that weigh hundreds of pounds, and they were stunned to see some once-in-lifetime catches just off the coast of New York City over the summer.
"This past season they came within a few miles from the beach, in our own backyard," said Richard Colombo with Rockfish Charters in Sheepshead Bay. "We got calls from everywhere. If I had 20 boats, we could have 20 boats for charter."
Captain Kyle Colesanti said he had better luck off Rockaway Beach than in Massachusetts where commercial tuna fishing is popular.
"We hopped on a boat, we went out and caught one in less than two minutes," Colesanti added.
The phenomena drew a feeding frenzy of anglers looking to catch the fish whose population has been declining over the past decades due to high demand, overfishing and illegal fishing.
Rules and regulations have increased the transparency of commercial tuna fishing, according to the World Wildlife Fund, but interest in tuna remains and the industry generates more than $42 billion dollars each year. In 2019, a 612-pound bluefin was sold in Tokyo for a record $3 million.
Ethan Levine, a recreation fisherman, says he has been fishing his entire life but catching a giant bluefin tuna three miles from shore is "unprecedented." He and many marine biologists believe conservation efforts of bunker fish that tuna feed on are driving the size and proximity of the bluefins.
Last year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that prohibited the purse seining of bunker fish, also known as menhaden.
"I really think that the quota system and strong regulations are the only reason we see these fish here," Levine said.
However, the big fish have all but disappeared over the last three weeks but fishermen say they're hoping that the big-ticket fish will make a return next season.
"It's good for everybody in the industry and we're going to be talking about it for years to come because it really was incredible," Colombo said.