UK opens trial Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery

    The new trial commercial fishery for Atlantic bluefin tuna is the first of its type in the UK for decades, with 10 licences already issued.

    The UK government has announced it is opening a trial commercial fishery for Atlantic bluefin tuna.

    The move follows increased sightings of the tuna species in UK waters during recent years, and is presented as part of the UK’s approach to fisheries management post-Brexit.

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    Delivered by Defra and the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) on behalf of the UK Fisheries Authorities, the trial fishery will remain open until November 2023 and “will assist in the evaluation of the sustainability of a small-scale commercial fishery for this species and the social and economic benefits this new fishery could potentially provide to UK fishermen”, according to the government announcement.

    UK’s trial commercial tuna fishery opens until November 2023

    The new trial fishery is the first of its kind in the UK for decades. The government has issued licence authorisations to 10 fishing businesses, with a quota of 39 tonnes allocated to the fishery, taking advantage of an increased quota share of 65 tonnes for 2023.

    Fishing vessels will be permitted only to use low-impact rod and reel fishing gears with lures, while no live bait or chumming will be permitted.

    Commenting on the announcement, UK Fisheries Minister Mark Spencer stressed the government’s commitment to “sustainable management” of Atlantic bluefin tuna, saying that the trial fishery “will help deliver this while providing economic and social benefits to communities around our coast.”

    Recreational fishing to help monitor tuna stocks through tag and release programme

    Alongside commercial fishing, the UK government is also making bluefin tuna available to recreational anglers through its ongoing Catch and Release Tagging programme (CHART). This will be available through 24 charter vessels from fishing ports across South-West and Southern England.

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    Delivered by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), the tuna caught in CHART will be carefully tagged and released back into the ocean by the skippers and their crew. The programme is intended to provide scientific data for improved knowledgement and management of the species, with an additional aim of supporting coastal commnities by promoting “high-value” tourism.

    “The 2023 programme will further develop our understanding of the occurrence and demographics of Atlantic bluefin tuna in English waters and is a great demonstration of participatory science that provides valuable data for fisheries management,” said CHART Principal Investigator David Righton.

    “In recent years, the number of reported sightings of Atlantic bluefin tuna in UK waters has been increasing. Reasons such as conservation measures and climate change impacts, including abundance of prey and changes to the marine environment are thought to have caused this increase in sightings.”

    “The data collected from this work will contribute not only to improving understanding of Atlantic bluefin tuna in UK waters but will also be supplied to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).”

    This latest development comes after the UK government announced a major package of post-brexit measures for the fishing industry, including a series of comprehensive fisheries management plans and the introduction of remote electronic monitoring for fishing vessels in UK waters.

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