The Tuna CHART (CatcH And Release Tagging) programme will see skippers catch, tag, measure and release Atlantic bluefin tuna for data collection purposes off the Irish coast.
The authorised vessels, which are located in Cork, Clare, Galway, Sligo and Donegal, will support an international scientific programme to increase knowledge of the behaviour and abundance of bluefin tuna in Irish waters and across its distribution generally.
Atlantic bluefin tuna, the largest tuna in the world, frequent Irish coastal waters to feed during the species’ annual migration through North Atlantic waters.
The bluefin tuna is prized by sea anglers for its power and fighting ability and is a very valuable commercial species, though there is currently no sport or commercial fishery for bluefin tuna in Ireland.
The new programme, which has been developed by Inland Fisheries Ireland and the Marine Institute in partnership with the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority and the former Departments of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and Communications, Climate Action and Environment, will operate again in 2020 having commenced on a pilot basis in 2019.
Eamon Ryan TD, minister with responsibility for inland fisheries, said: “The 22 angling vessels authorised by my department, increased from 15 last year, will contribute substantially to essential bluefin tuna data collection as they migrate along the Irish coastline.
“The recreational fisheries sector is crucial in the delivery of this research programme and we look forward to continue working with all the State agencies involved.
“I want to acknowledge the key role of the authorised charter skippers and their crews who are bringing their unique expertise to bear on providing valuable data for scientific purposes, and the ‘citizen scientist’ anglers who will catch the fish. The fact that 209 fish were tagged last year with no mortalities is a great achievement by the skippers.”
The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority and Inland Fisheries Ireland will undertake inspections and patrols around the coast to ensure this remains a strictly controlled programme.
A full list of authorised skippers can be found at www.fisheriesireland.ie/bluefin