A campaign group has been formed in a bid to allow catch-and-release tuna fishing around the UK.
Bluefin Tuna UK and the Angling Trust met with MPs at the House of Commons last week to launch the bid to establish a properly regulated, science-based, live release UK tuna fishery. Currently, tuna fishing is not allowed around the UK coastline.
The news comes as more and more huge Atlantic bluefin tuna have appeared around the UK over recent summers, while a fishing quota forbids recreational and commercial anglers from deliberately targeting these huge fish off the British coast.
During this period, dozens of tuna to 320kg have been hooked accidentally but released safely by anglers fishing for sharks – highlighting the fact that there is a healthy population of tuna visiting the UK.
David Mitchell, Marine Environmental Campaigns Manager at the Angling Trust, said: “The return of giant bluefin tuna to our shores provides the UK with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to establish a sustainable, economically optimal, scientifically important fishery for the species right here in Britain.
“The authorised involvement of committed and conservation-minded anglers would not only add significantly to our knowledge of these tremendous fish but would guard against moves to reinstate unsustainable commercial harvesting and the inevitable illegal fishing that would occur if no-one was looking out for the stocks.
“A live release recreational fishery would be a win-win-win by contributing to better science, allowing the rebuilding and recovery of the population and delivering huge economic and employment benefits to coastal communities from Cornwall to the west coast of Scotland.”
Outlined in the campaigners’ plans to allow anglers to target tuna is the proposition of a tagging system, meaning that any tuna caught can be monitored.
Steve Murphy, director of Bluefin Tuna UK, added: “Tagging programmes are taking place across Europe, using recreational angling to gather much-needed scientific data
to help understand the stock better.
“A large-scale research programme, as part of any UK live release fishery, would allow anglers to contribute to essential scientific research of the stock and its future management.”
l For further updates concerning the progression of the campaign, please visit the Bluefin Tuna UK website at www.bluefintuna.co.uk