Bluefin tuna fishing in the UK

Bluefin tuna fishing in the UK

Bluefin tuna released in the UK
The numbers of Atlantic bluefin tuna in waters off Europe, and the UK in particular, have increased significantly in recent years. It has inspired recreational fisheries where captains tag fish and serve as citizen scientists.
John Whittle

Start Point Lighthouse is located on a rocky peninsula surrounded by purple marsh grasses and swift pastures in South Devon. On the hillside, three sheep have sky-blue circles drawn on their backs to signify their ownership. It is an elevated place where each of the 360 ​​degrees offers a magnificent view. But for now, tourists and locals along the walking trail only look out into the water, where giant bluefin tuna crush mackerel, sending explosions closer and closer to shore.

Did this bluefin land 50 yards from shore? As long as we write the questions in italics, What’s happening with the resurgence of bluefin tuna in the UK?

The Start Point Lighthouse can be seen in nearby Plymouth, one of the most popular maritime communities in the Western Hemisphere. After all, it’s a Plymouth, Mayflower Plymouth, the Plymouth that gave the rock in Massachusetts its name. Today, the coastal town in southwest England, which celebrated its 400th birthday in 2020, is a gateway to a growing bluefin fishery. Similar to the southern California bluefin tuna revival, Atlantic bluefin tuna populations in waters off Europe, and the United Kingdom in particular, have increased significantly in recent years. It has inspired recreational fisheries where captains tag fish and serve as citizen scientists.

In 2021, the Center for Environmental Fisheries and Aquaculture Sciences (Cefas) initiated a catch-and-release tagging (CHART) program where a limited number of charter vessels are approved to tag and release bluefin to learn more about their movements and behaviour. In 2022, CHART recorded 631 charter trips, 1,755 participating anglers, and 1,090 tagged fish.

Trolling for bluefin tuna
Captain Mark Jory, of Fortuna Charters, trolls synthetics from the spreader rods on his boat Fortuna II. This 41-foot fishing catamaran is designed for the sporting seas often serviced by the English Channel.
John Whittle

Twenty-four tag-and-release vessel charters have been licensed in 2023, one of which is Fortuna Charters, owned and operated by Captain Mark Jory. His boat, Fortune II, is a 41-foot fishing catamaran designed for the sporting seas often serviced by the English Channel. But as far as the daring goes the spoils go: In October 2022, Jury caught and released 94 fish in one 14-day period, including one day where they landed 17 fish. However, blue migrations are a mystery, so this phenomenon is not guaranteed to last.

Planning a trip

The starting point is a lighthouse
Start Point Lighthouse is located on a rocky peninsula surrounded by purple marsh grasses and swift pastures in South Devon. Nearby, giant bluefin tuna smash mackerel, sending explosions closer and closer to shore.
John Whittle

when are you going: While details of the 2024 season have not yet been announced, as a general rule, the season runs from mid-August to mid-December.

Where to go and how to get there: Unless one has the patience for purgatory, it is best to avoid Heathrow Airport and choose to fly to Gatwick instead. On our last trip in October 2023, we flew direct from Orlando to London on American: an eight-hour flight. It’s a four-hour road trip through the foothills to Plymouth. Don’t be surprised when you look out the car window at two o’clock and ask: “Isn’t this Stonehenge?” (Yes, it was Stonehenge. And the $30 ticket is worth it.) As you get closer to Plymouth, the streets become increasingly narrow until they are merely single-lane country roads bordered by hedgerows and stone walls, creating the most mesmerizing traffic jams you will ever experience.

Skip hotels and hostels if possible. Plymouth and nearby towns like Noss Mayo and Newton Ferrers have surprisingly affordable Airbnb and VRBO rentals. While Plymouth is larger and more industrial (shipyards, naval base and population 265,000), Nos Mayo and Newton Ferrers are quaint seaside villages straight out of a snow globe, and both are just 20 minutes from Plymouth Yacht Haven.

what are you expecting: It’s quite awe-inspiring to watch a man protected only by leather fishing gloves tackle a 700-pound bluefin fish. “Ninety-nine inches!” Jury shouted as he hung over the edge of the gun to measure the giant. The mark – a thin, yellow tube – is placed below the base of the second dorsal fin. This will be the largest of the 17 bluefin caught and released over the course of four days.

Tagging stick for bluefin tuna
It’s quite awe-inspiring to watch a man protected only by the cord of a leather fishing glove tag a 700-pound bluefin tuna.
John Whittle

Fortune II She is quite the laid back cat. Her 16-foot beam allows for a large saloon with more privileges than most charter boats. “Should I put on the kettle?” asks Andy, his buddy. Everyone politely declines on the first day. By day 4 the whole crew was enjoying the tea and I will definitely have another biscuit, thank you very much.

While the English gloom and fog took hold on some days, the weather was mostly fine, the seas choppy but not unpleasant. It’s stand-up fishing using traditional 80- and 130-pound reels clipped to a harness, with a single hole screwed into the crossbar if a giant sends you overboard. The CHART program prohibits live bait, so all artificials are fished with spreader rods. Aside from bluefin, wildlife abounds in these waters. Water jigs glide over the whitecaps following schools of mackerel. Minke, pilot and fin whales are common sightings. Porpoises swim and jump between the cat’s bodies as they walk.

All with cool breezes and hot tea until…Zzzzzzz! —The long left explodes. Then it’s designed chaos. Andy hurriedly clears the spreader bar. Jory comes down from the bridge, shouting colorful obscenities, and acting as if it’s his first fish of the season.

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(tags for translation)bluefin tuna

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