Positive news on bluefin tuna

Representatives from the Angling Trust and Bluefin Tuna UK met with Fisheries Minister Victoria Prentis today to press for a continuation into 2022 of last year’s successful bluefin tuna CatcH And Release Tag (CHART) programme which ran in the South West of England. They were delighted to hear that the minister has now approved the programme for another year in parallel with a consultation on a future live release recreational fishery.

The delegation comprised Steve Murphy of Bluefin Tuna UK and Jamie Cook, Stuart Singleton-White and Martin Salter of the Angling Trust. They pressed for an increase from last year’s 15 boats to enable more skippers to gain the skills required to operate a world class catch and release big game fishery. The minister was also presented with a paper outlining how the CHART programme should evolve into a expanded, licensed live release fishery generating both conservation and economic benefits.

The key points in the angling presentation included:

  • Atlantic Bluefin Tuna have now been in our waters for seven years
  • The increase in abundance has seen their status downgraded from ‘endangered’ to one of ‘least concern’ by the IUCN
  • The UK is no longer in the EU and has been allocated tuna quota by ICCAT in its own right
  • 13 other ICCAT members operate recreational tuna fisheries including Norway and Denmark
  • The CEFAS run CHART programme of 2021 delivered outstanding results showing how properly licensed and managed recreational fishing could deliver economic benefit alongside minimal mortality
  • We now have 15 professional skippers who have kitted out their own vessels, at considerable cost, and successfully completed the CHART programme. They are ready to move to the next stage allowing new entrants to benefit from the scheme.

Jamie Cook, CEO of the Angling Trust said:

“We were pleased to have had the opportunity to discuss with the Minister our joint proposal for a small scale, sustainable, licensed recreational fishery supported by those skippers who have ‘graduated’ through the 2021 CHART programme. These are skilled, professional small business operators who have spent up to £20,000 equipping their boats to deliver safe, live release recreational fishing.

“These skippers know how to tag and release the fish and in our view should now be the first tranche to be licensed to set the standard in an exciting new world class recreational bluefin tuna fishery. We are pleased that the CHART programme has been confirmed for this year and that a ‘scoping project’ and consultations and will follow on the main prize of a properly licensed, live release fishery serving both conservation and economic objectives.”

Steve Murphy, founder of Bluefin Tuna UK added:

“Last year’s CHART programme exceed all expectations with record numbers of fish caught (700+), tagged and safely released. Studies indicate that the financial benefit to the coastal communities in the South West ran to several hundred thousand pounds providing an extended recreational fishing season and a welcome boost for local economies.

“I was pleased that the minister recognised these achievements and shared our enthusiasm to make the most of this exciting opportunity. Whilst it is great that CHART will operate again this year we are keen to expand the number of participating boats and want to see our vision of a licensed live release, bluefin tuna fishery realised as soon as possible. The forthcoming consultation and ‘scoping project’ will be an important step on this road.”

Fisheries Minister Victoria Prentis said:

“I am delighted to announce the continuation of the CHART Project in 2022 to support the collection of scientific data on Atlantic bluefin tuna. I also welcome the proposal from the Angling Trust and Bluefin Tuna UK on their ambitions for a future recreational bluefin tuna fishery, which we will consider carefully.”

Meeting with Fisheries Minister Victoria Prentis are (from left) Stuart Singleton-White, Steve Murphy, Martin Salter and Jamie Cook

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