UK fishers urged not to target increasingly abundant bluefin tuna

Published on
June 16, 2020

Fishermen in the United Kingdom have been told not to catch the eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna that are increasingly being found in British waters.

For several years, eastern bluefin tuna appeared more or less absent from U.K. waters, but sightings by scientists conducting surveys, and by members of the public on fishing vessels and leisure boats, have suggested that there is an increased incidence of this highly migratory species in recent years. The reasons for this are not clear, but could include a shift in distribution due to changes in environmental and prey conditions, as well as the stock’s ongoing recovery. 

However, U.K. government has reminded fishermen that in line with E.U. legislation, the country does not have quota for eastern bluefin tuna and no commercial U.K. vessels are authorized to land catches of this stock.

Any bluefin tuna caught by any U.K. vessel must be returned to the sea, alive and unharmed to the greatest extent possible.

Similarly, recreational sea anglers are not permitted to target bluefin tuna and must release any unintended catches immediately and unharmed.

Bluefin tuna caught as bycatch which are dead must be reported to the Marine Management Organisation (MMO). They must be landed whole and unprocessed. Bluefin tuna landed as a result of this requirement must not be sold or given away unless it is for scientific research following approval from the MMO.

The United Kingdom has been funding the Thunnus UK project, as part of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna’s (ICCAT) Grand Bluefin Tuna Year Program. These ongoing research activities aim to get a baseline understanding of the ecology of Atlantic bluefin tuna in British waters.  

In 2015, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature revised its eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna entry from “endangered” to “near-threatened” to reflect the improving state of the stock.

ICCAT’s scientific committee, the Standing Committee on Research and Statistics, advised in 2017 that the stock was increasing and unlikely to be subject to overfishing. However, the committee also acknowledged that these assessments and stock projections included a degree of uncertainty due to a number of biological and ecological aspects of bluefin tuna life history and the models used.   

Photo courtesy of Alexius Sutandio/Shutterstock

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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