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Campaign for a UK Recreational Live Release Bluefin Tuna Fishery

Allan Shephard - 28/07/2021

Campaign for a UK Recreational Live Release Bluefin Tuna Fishery

Bluefin Tuna UK are campaigning to secure a recreational live release fishery in the UK for Atlantic Bluefin Tuna.

Steve Murphy from BFTUK explains to us below... plus you can jump to the February 2019 Update Here or the July 2021 Update Here

"Currently the UK Government deem it is illegal for any UK anglers to target Atlantic Bluefin Tuna in UK waters and we want to change that! ABFT numbers have recovered sharply over the last 8 years following a 15 year recovery plan which was put in place in 2007, and they are now regular visitors to the waters around the Great Britain, from down in Cornwall right up to the Shetland Isles.

We believe that a fully licensed, live release fishery is the best way forward. The economic value of such fisheries has been proven to be multiples per tonne that of a commercial fishery, it is a selective, sustainable fishery, and allows large scale research programs to operate in parallel to it, helping expand our knowledge of this valuable, vulnerable fish.

Bluefin Tuna UK are delighted to have the endorsement and support of Rok Max, who supply specific bluefin tuna tackle for around the globe, for their campaign. Rok Max have been equipping UK anglers for both domestic and international fishing adventures for many years and the range of tackle offered for the most demanding saltwater gamefish is unsurpassed."

From the warm waters of the Med and Gulf of Mexico, to the icy North Atlantic, these amazing fish transit thousands of miles. Growing to over 1,500lb, capable of speeds of up to 45/50mph, they are an amazing feat of fishy nature. Find out more about these amazing creatures on the Bluefin Tuna UK website.

Bluefin Tuna in the UK

Bluefin Tuna UK are a group of individuals and organisations who believe passionately that this Iconic fish needs to be managed in a new, sustainable, economically optimal way.

You can find more detailed information on the arguments for such an approach, and much more information on the physiology, lifestyle, and recent history of ABFT in UK waters over on our campaign website, www.bluefintuna.co.uk and via our Facebook Page, Bluefin Tuna UK.


Update February 2019

There has been some big news in the arena of UK Bluefin Tuna over the last couple of weeks. In early February, the Campaign founder, Steve Murphy, along with officials from the Angling Trust, a partner in the Campaign, met with George Eustice, the Minister of State with responsibility for fisheries.

Steve told us:

“We were pleased to be invited to meet the Minister to discuss our proposal. It was a very productive meeting and we welcome the open minded and constructive attitude from the Minister and DEFRA officials. We have ensured that Recreational Angling interests are represented in the discussions now getting under way regarding the future management of Atlantic Bluefin in our waters. We remain very optimistic that our proposal for a world leading live release fishery, accompanied by a large scale species research program will be seriously considered by the UK Authorities”.

Bluefin Tuna UK February UpdateLast week also saw an announcement that Ireland had won support from ICCAT and the EU for a derogation, (required as Ireland, like the UK is a non quota holder regarding Bluefin Tuna), to operate from this summer an angler led Bluefin Research program incorporating tagging and utilising up to 15 recreational charter vessels.

Ireland has previously had small scale tagging activity by one vessel permitted periodically, but this widens the scope and participation of that substantially. 

Steve Murphy said to us that:

“It is really encouraging to see these developments in Ireland, and appropriate given the persistence of Adrian Molloy in particular to prove the presence and feasibility of this fishery, which Dublin, Brussels and ICAT have now had to acknowledge. It proves once again the value of recreational angling in carrying out such invaluable research into Atlantic Bluefin Tuna. The UK has a limited, small scale tagging program in place since 2018. We are once again calling upon the UK Government to widen that program, both in its geographical scope as well as the inclusion of more that the current 1-2 vessels and allowing experienced recreational anglers to contribute to this important work. The Irish government have highlighted the economic benefits of their new program, and changes to the UK program would likewise be of great economic value to coastal communities”.


Update July 2021

In July 2021, some 40 skippers and crew members from fishing ports across South-West and Southern England have successfully completed their specialist training to catch, tag and release Atlantic Bluefin Tuna.

The completion of training means they are on track to be granted scientific licences to fish for Atlantic Bluefin Tuna, from August to November this year. This unique collaboration brings together for the first time in England a breadth of fishing, science and conservation interests in support of this innovative approach to tuna scientific research.

The Environment Secretary, George Eustice said:

“While Atlantic Bluefin Tuna are increasingly present in UK waters, we know little about their movements and time spent here. “Our catch, tag and release pilot programme will provide an economic boost for local coastal communities, particularly here in the South-West, and contribute to international efforts to manage this fish stock effectively for the benefit of future generations”.

The 15 skippers were selected by the Centre for?Environment,?Fisheries, and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) and will join forces with a team of observers and scientists, as well as other organisations, such as the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), Bluefin Tuna UK and Natural England, with the aim of collecting data to improve the science understanding and management of bluefin tuna.

Steve Murphy said to us that:

“After an exhaustive 7 months’ consultation process, we have here a world class example of collaboration and the value that the Recreational Sea Angling sector can bring to important scientific research. Combining the scientific expertise of CEFAS, with the great experience of seasoned UK Charter skippers and anglers with notable experience of large pelagic species, we have a program which will deliver important scientific data, real economic benefits to coastal communities, and an opportunity for anglers to engage with this iconic sportfish in a professional, managed environment.”.

Steve has published a more detailed blog on this particular topic on the Campaign website, you can find the article here: bluefintuna.co.uk/blog/f/irish-eyes-are-smiling-but-what-about-the-uk

Allan Shephard

I've spent a big chunk of my life either fishing, talking about fishing, teaching fishing or working in the tackle trade. My hunger for ever more extreme and challenging fishing adventures continues to grow and can only be satisfied by a regular angling fix! I hold AAPGAI advanced instruction qualifications in single & double-handed fly-casting and have had articles published by some of the biggest UK fishing magazine titles. I consider myself very much an all-round angler. I have fished in over 20 countries worldwide for a variety of species in both fresh and saltwater. Advising people how to kit themselves out with tackle and clothing for their next fishing adventure is always a pleasure – please take advantage of my experience and knowledge.

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