Sea anglers on specially-chosen boats are to be given the chance to target huge bluefin tuna off the south-west coast of England.
The exciting news comes after the Angling Trust successfully lobbied for anglers’ skills and knowledge to contribute towards a major tagging programme run by THUNNUS UK – a collaborative research project between the University of Exeter and government body the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas).
Populations of bluefin tuna around our shores have grown significantly to the kind of numbers witnessed in the early 20th century as the species makes a comeback.
Until the 1950s, fishing for Atlantic bluefin – then known as ‘tunny’ – was big sport in England, with fish to over 850lb landed off the Yorkshire coast.
After decades of decline and over-fishing, gradually warming seas have led to the species’ return, and sea anglers targeting sharks off the coast of Cornwall, Wales and Ireland have caught increasing numbers of the legendary species over the past few years.
THUNNUS UK began a tagging programme in 2018 and, under the latest development, paying anglers who have prior experience of fishing for large sea fish will be allowed to participate in the project for the remainder of 2019.
A spokesman for THUNNUS UK said: “We are continuing the tagging programme to increase knowledge of the tuna’s seasonal migrations and behaviour. We are now broadening participation in the tagging programme to include recreational sea anglers as we seek to deploy up to 30 state-of-the-art electronic tags on Atlantic bluefin tuna this year.”
The news will be music to the ears of the country’s marine big game anglers, and officials at the Angling Trust believe it is a major step towards having a permanent bluefin tuna fishery established in the UK.
David Mitchell, marine environmental campaigns manager for the Trust, said: “We’re very happy to see that there is a limited opportunity for anglers to contribute to this tagging project to help establish the numbers of bluefin tuna, which are once again visiting our shores.
“After Brexit we have the chance to become an independent coastal state which means we can apply for a bigger quota from ICCAT, (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas).