Two south west MPs have come together to call for Ministers to approve a catch and release fishery for bluefin tuna to help boost the recovery of seaside communities. Luke Pollard MP and Derek Thomas MP have called on the Government to pilot a science-led project that would allow for these fish to be caught, studied, tagged and then released back into the wild.
Coronavirus has really hit the charter boat and recreational fishing sectors with businesses across the region facing real financial difficulties. This new fishery would give a new selling point in an industry that is worth more than commercial fishing to the UK economy.
Blue fin tuna are now coming back into south west waters in increasing numbers and Ministers will soon decide whether to grant fishing licences to catch these fish. Luke and Derek believe instead of catching the fish for food consumption there should be a special catch and release fishery created to enable better scientific understanding of why south west waters are seeing an increase in this species of tuna. This catch and release pilot would also support the environmental recovery of Bluefin numbers that are still classed as endangered due to past overfishing.
A blue fin tuna are the largest tunas and can live up to 40 years. They migrate across all oceans and can dive deeper than 3,000 feet. They can grow to between 6 and 10 feet in length and weigh up to 1500 ibs or 700kg. Bluefin Tuna have high survivability and are able to survive being caught and so can be released back into the ocean providing a boost to south west tourism businesses as well as providing scientists with more data about this species’ increasing presence in south west waters.
Luke Pollard and Derek Thomas have met with the Fisheries Minister, Victoria Prentis MP, to lobby for the creation of a science-led catch and release fishery that could enable tagging of these fish as well as a big boost in tourism for the region. The Minister is currently considering whether to approve the first catch and release fishery for Bluefin Tuna in south west waters and this cross-party, cross-county work is building the case for granting this licence. The focus of this fishery would be on the science of understanding the numbers, migration patterns and size of Bluefin Tuna in British waters.
Derek Thomas MP said:
“Having worked with Cornish charter boat operators on this issue I know they would seize the opportunity of being able to participate in a catch and release fishery for Bluefin Tuna. It could be a real tourism boost for Cornwall and Devon. I know plenty of charter boat operators in Penzance and St Ives in particular that would welcome this chance to trial this science-led project here in the west country.”
Luke Pollard MP said:
“In Parliament I have argued that a new catch and release fishery would create new jobs in tourism across the south west and give a boost to charter boat operators after a tough year. It would also help us better understand the changing migration patterns of this majestic fish and support the recovery of coastal communities. It is a win-win proposal that I hope Ministers enthusiastically support.”
The MPs are in continuing discussions with the Fisheries Minister about Bluefin tuna and hope that an announcement can be made by Government in summer/autumn 2021 about the creation of a limited pilot project allowing for the processes of measuring, tagging and releasing to be perfected before being rolled out on a larger basis in future years.