While there is no sport or commercial fishery for Bluefin tuna in Ireland, a pilot Bluefin Tuna Data Collection Programme has been developed by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) and the Marine Institute (MI) in partnership with the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) and the Department for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE) . This programme, comprising 15 authorised charter angling skippers, commenced on the 15th of August in order to catch, tag and release Atlantic bluefin tuna for data collection purposes off the Irish coast and is part of the International Convention on the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) research programme which is supported by the EU Commission.
These authorised skippers with vessels operating out of ports located in Cork, Clare, Galway, Sligo and Donegal are supporting scientific work to increase knowledge of the behaviour and abundance of Bluefin tuna in Irish waters. All authorised skippers have participated in training with guidance provided around fish handling, welfare, tagging and data recording. Participants in the programme catch, tag and release Bluefin tuna while adhering to strict fish safety and handling procedures at all times.
Authorisations were originally granted to the 15 charter skippers from mid-August until mid-October. This pilot project has been very successful with 201 fish tagged and released to date with utmost consideration to their welfare. Due to the migratory patterns of Bluefin tuna, there has been little activity in the South and South West. As a result, the fishing season will now be extended for a further four weeks until the 12th of November to seek data which will help improve our knowledge of the population structure and distribution of Bluefin tuna in these regions. There will be no further extensions as lower water temperatures could hinder post-release survival of these fish after mid-November.
Minister Creed said today: “I am delighted by the excellent cooperation shown between my Department, DCCAE, SFPA, MI and the IFI in the development and management of this pilot project. The extension of the programme will provide an opportunity to gather further data and improve our understanding of the migratory patterns of Bluefin Tuna around our coasts.”
Minister Canney said: “I fully support the continued involvement of my Department and Inland Fisheries Ireland in the collaborative pilot project to collect valuable data on Bluefin tuna in Irish coastal waters. The partnership approach has led to a very successful round of data gathering with some 200 fish tagged and recorded since the pilot programme opened.
“The extension of the programme for a further four weeks will provide an excellent opportunity to encourage the collaborative effort and most importantly provide a research dividend by increasing the data collected. I have approved the issuing of renewed authorisations by my Department for the sea angling vessels participating in the initiative to continue until the 12th of November” he added.
The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority and Inland Fisheries Ireland will undertake inspections and patrols around the coast to ensure this remains a strictly controlled fishery. Anglers wishing to engage in this fishery must only do so on a sea angling vessel specifically authorised to participate in the pilot programme. Any person engaging in this fishery on any vessel which is not appropriately authorised will be in breach of the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction (Bluefin Tuna) Regulations 2019 (S.I. No. 265 of 2019).
A full list of authorised skippers can be found here