Top NC Court to Decide: Did Lack of $30 Fishing License Preclude $910K Award for 883-Pound Marlin?

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A monster catch in a North Carolina fishing contest has turned into a major legal case for the owners of the boat on which it was caught.

The celebration aboard the charter boat Citation in June 2010, when an 883-pound blue marlin was hauled aboard after a five-hour battle, soon dimmed. After the catch was recorded in Morehead City, it was disqualified for the $910,000 top prize in the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament because the boat’s first mate didn’t have a $30 fishing license when the fish was hooked, according to the Associated Press and the News & Observer.

On Tuesday, the North Carolina Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in Raleigh about whether the Citation or a competing vessel, the Carnivore, should prevail in the legal battle for the mega-payday.

After the 883-pound marlin was caught, a license for the first mate was purchased immediately afterward, via laptop computer, when the Citation was still two hours offshore, and lawyers for the boat owners, three individuals and their Black Pearl Enterprises, say the fish was landed in federal waters, not North Carolina. They also contend that the first mate did have a North Carolina fishing license–purchased in federal waters–when the Citation returned to the state and sought the first prize, the articles recount.

Those representing the tournament and the Carnivore, a vessel that will win the contest if the Citation’s disqualification stands, say that rules are rules, everyone knew or should have known the rules, and the same rules have applied for years.

The News & Observer notes that the Citation’s first mate, Peter Martin Wann of Alexandria, Va., has been cited by the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries for fishing without a license. The ticket carries a $35 fine, plus $125 in court costs.

The Jacksonville Daily News also has a story.

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