The mysterious autumnal tale of Gloucester's headless bluefin tuna has taken another arresting turn. Literally.
On Friday evening, following the first day of the re-opened tuna season, Massachusetts Environmental Police officers arrested a Gloucester fisherman whom they believe dumped the illegally harvested 400-pound giant bluefin tuna in the woods off Revere Street in late October.
Harold E. Wentworth, 40, of 24 Liberty St., was arrested by Environmental Police officers at the dock in Rockport and transported to the Rockport Police Station to be booked on the charges of improper disposal of waste, expelling trash or litter from a motor vehicle and operating a motor vehicle after suspension for operating under the influence.
Environmental Police Maj. Patrick Moran said he was not sure if Wentworth would be bailed out Friday night, but said he expects him to be arraigned on the charges Monday in Gloucester District Court.
Wentworth's arrest is the newest chapter in a strange story that literally traveled around the world after first appearing in the Gloucester Daily Times. Boston television stations jumped all over it and news organizations from as far away as Australia ran the story.
The arrest is not the finishing touch, either. According to the arrest warrant issued Wednesday by Gloucester District Court, NOAA Fisheries also plans to charge Wentworth with "additional marine fisheries violations for the illegal harvest of a bluefin tuna."
The investigation, helped immeasurably by surveillance video, also included personnel from NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement, as well as assistance from both Gloucester and Rockport police — and several citizens who came forward as witnesses.
"It's always very satisfying when all of the agencies can come together to make a case," Moran said.
The narrative by Environmental Police Officer Ryan Lennon, contained as a supporting document in the application for Wentworth's arrest warrant, said surveillance video showed Wentworth and other crew members of the fishing vessel Went-Way landing the tuna at the Pigeon Cove Fishermen's Co-Op in Rockport about 9:30 on the night of Oct. 20 — 15 days after the close of the earlier tuna season.
The 33-foot Went-Way, according to state and federal fishing records, is owned by Christopher J. Wayrynen of Rockport. Wayrynen could not be reached for comment Friday.
Neither Wayrynen nor any of the other Went-Way crew are charged in the arrest warrant and no one else was arrested with Wentworth on Friday. That does not mean, however, that they won't face fisheries violations from NOAA for participating in the the illegal harvesting and landing of the bluefin tuna.
On the night of Oct. 23, according to the report, a witness observed Wentworth drive a vehicle down Revere Street, dragging the tuna down behind it. Police say Wentworth was observed dumping the large pelagic in the woods near 59 Revere St., on private land belonging to the New England Forestry Foundation.
Subsequent video footage of Revere Street that night also showed the vehicle dragging an object down the road, police said.
Officers from the Environmental Police, already tipped by several sources to the possible illegal landing of a giant bluefin tuna in Rockport, met with officers from NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement to develop an investigatory strategy.
Tuna used as compost
On Oct. 24, the contingent of law enforcement officers, tipped by a witness, went to Revere Street.
"We arrived at the woods across from 59 Revere St., Gloucester, and discovered the BFT (bluefin tuna) approximately 25 yards off the roadside, down a steep ravine," Lennon wrote in his narrative. "Drag marks on the BFT and the roadside indicated Wentworth had dragged it down."
Unable to remove the giant tuna manually from the woods, officers summoned a wrecker from Tally's to recover it.
"It was immediately evident it was the same BFT that was observed on the surveillance video from the Co-Op as the tail had a test cut taken from the exact location," Lennon wrote.
He estimated the the tuna weighed 350 to 400 pounds, with a market value of $3,500 to $10,000 depending on the quality of the tuna meat.
Once hauled out of the woods, NOAA Law Enforcement determined it was unfit for consumption and donated the carcass to Brick Ends Farm in South Hamilton to be used as compost.
"The Atlantic bluefin tuna is a lucrative market and is sometimes the destination for illegally harvested fish," Moran said. "It's difficult for us to patrol an open ocean and all the surrounding landing spots which is why, in a lot of cases, poachers evade detection. In this case they were detected.
"What is troubling is not only the illegal harvest but the wanton waste of a 400-pound tuna. This shows a total disregard for all the anglers fishing legally."
Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT.