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Bluefin tuna update: trade body welcomes establishment of ‘multi-million pound’ fishery


The Angling Trades Association (ATA) is the latest body to express its support for the establishment of a bluefin tuna fishery off the shores of the UK.

The proposed fishery, the subject of a special report on this website on Saturday, has already received the backing of members of Parliament, fisheries experts, charter businesses and consumer angling bodies. 

The idea for the catch-and-release tagging scheme (CHART) was first introduced by the UK Bluefin Tuna Campaign three years ago. It continues to gain momentum, despite being rejected in Autumn last year. ATA Chairman Andrew Race says the Association estimates the socio-economic impact for the UK angling industry and coastal communities to be in the tens of million of pounds in the medium to long term.

“Over the last 12 months, our involvement in the saltwater angling sector has increased dramatically, working with many industry stakeholders on several projects, including the potential to establish a UK catch and release bluefin tuna fishery,” he said. 

“The ATA is very focused on any medium and long-term developments towards sustainable marine fisheries around the UK. As the official industry body, we have to look at longer-term investment work that guarantees stability for our members rather than short term editorial.

“We already know a lot about the tuna in our local waters from other on-going CHART studies, including average size, condition and numbers of fish. Properly controlled and managed, these activities are actively supported by the species’ global management body, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Salmon (ICCAT),and others as being the best way to increase our understanding of tuna. 

“Combine these results with a long season and the UK could have a world-class recreational bluefin live release fishery that can contribute both economically and environmentally. The UK is currently lagging behind other European countries on tuna research and development, but hopefully the work being done by the ATA and others will bring about a positive result.”

The campaign has met with opposition from marine conservationists, who argue that bluefin tuna stocks are vulnerable. But data shows the species has dropped out of the endangered category. The latest ICCAT report concludes that there are no concerns about overfishing and that there has been a rapid increase in stocks. 

And Race believes there is potential for support from the conservation side if the project is handled respectfully. Fisheries Minister Victoria Prentis is expected to make a ruling on the project by the end of this month.

• Meanwhile, the increase in numbers of bluefin tuna could transform British waters into a ‘global powerhouse’ according to a social media fishing sensation. Colby Blackwell (18), a globetrotting kayak angler on a mission to catch the rare fish, says that thousands of anglers from around the world will be attracted by the news. “Most anglers love a challenge and catching bluefin tuna is never easy,” he told Express.co.uk. “I know dozens of anglers who would love to net one. If you combine that with visiting a new place – it makes a great fishing vacation,” said Blackwell, (18), from Birmingham, Alabama. “It’s the perfect combination to turn the UK into a global powerhouse of sea angling and all the economic benefits that brings.” Blackwell, who diaries his adventures on his social media accounts, is the first person to catch a swordfish, marlin and sailfish from a kayak.

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