200kg Atlantic bluefin tuna caught in South West waters for first time in decades

This is the first Atlantic bluefin tuna to be caught in UK waters for decades.

The first Atlantic bluefin tuna has been caught in the South West in a new fishing trial.

The nine-foot-long tuna weighs nearly two hundred kilos and sold for around £2,000.

Only ten boats in the UK have been granted licenses to catch the fish, using a rod and line, for the next four months. The data from the operation will be used to inform future decisions.

In a boost to the fishing industry, 65 tons of the species, which returned to our waters in 2021, will be available for capture and will be fished commercially in the UK for the first time in decades.

The trial allows the boats to catch one fish a day and will run until November 2023.

The nine-foot-long tuna sold for around £2,000.

Atlantic bluefin tuna status

The species is present again in UK waters after an absence of many years. Scientific surveys and sightings by members of the public suggest an increased number of them in UK waters, most probably due to changes to environmental or prey conditions.

In 2021, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) changed their entry for Eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna from "endangered" to "least concern."

However, catching the species will be cautiously monitored.

Fish merchant Ian Perkes said: "Well it's brilliant. The season opened on Monday and the first fish was caught by a 5.7 metre trawler out of Plymouth.

"What you've seen is a fine specimen. We will send it to London. We've got a great client that will do well with it. It will end up as sushi, it will end up as sashimi, it will end up in people's houses. It'll feed a lot of people."

Fisheries Minister Mark Spencer said: "We’re committed to the sustainable management of Atlantic bluefin tuna, and this announcement will help deliver this while providing economic and social benefits to communities around our coast.

"I look forward to seeing the valuable research that this work will deliver, contributing hugely to developing a plan for how we use our quota in the future."

Recreational anglers will also be able to fish for the bluefin tuna under the Catch and Release Tagging Programme (CHART), available through 24 charter vessels from ports across the South West and southern England.

The tuna caught in CHART will be tagged and released back into the ocean.

David Righton from CHART said: "The 2023 programme will further develop our understanding of the occurrence and demographics of Atlantic bluefin tuna in English waters and is a great demonstration of participatory science that provides valuable data for fisheries management."