Return of UK tuna fishery ‘exciting angling opportunity’
The UK Fisheries Minister is considering the creation of a licensed recreational tuna fishery to attract angling tourism to the West Country.
Tuna fishing was reintroduced off the Cornish coast on a trial basis two years ago with a limited number of boats being permitted to take anglers out to catch, release and tag bluefin tuna as part of a research project.
And following the capture and release of more than 1,000 fish in 2022, Minister Mark Spencer is looking to capitalise on the recreational fishing opportunity once the data has been analysed.
“The return of the Atlantic bluefin tuna to UK waters is an exciting opportunity that could benefit our fishing communities and tourism industry,” Spencer told the Financial Times.
And another senior government figure, talking to the same newspaper, said: “You would get a lot of loaded Americans over.”
Supporters of a UK tuna fishery argue that it will be good for the angling industry and for the local economy. Skippers can earn up to £1,200 a day for taking out fishermen in search of the torpedo-like tuna – and visitors would boost the food, drink and accommodation sectors.
“Sportfishing for big fish around the world is a very high-value activity, said Tim Macpherson of the UK Bluefin Tuna Association. “We can bring a substantial fishery to one of the most deprived areas of the UK.”
The campaign for a tuna fishery off Cornwall was started by Steven Murphy in 2017 and the scheme was eventually given the go-ahead by the British Government in April 2021. Murphy described it as an ‘enormous economic opportunity for coastal communities.’
However, the Marine Conservation Society has sounded a warning note by saying that ‘any fishery for this species must be carefully monitored and managed’ because there is ‘not yet enough confidence’ in the health of the stock in the face of high fishing pressure.
Conservation group Oceana has also said it would like to see a further replenishment of stocks before risking it coming under duress from angling.
Tuna were immortalised by author Ernest Hemingway in his book, The Old Man and the Sea. The species disappeared from England’s coastal waters due to commercial over-fishing in the mid 20th century, before making a return attributed to recovering sardine stocks and a warmer Gulf Stream. They were removed from the endangered species list in 2021.