On 23 April, the British Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) gave the green light to an English Catch And Release Tagging (CHART) programme for Atlantic Bluefin Tuna. This news, welcomed by anglers, was secured by Bluefin Tuna UK, with the support of the Angling Trust. It will operate in Autumn 2021. This licensed, angler-led programme will join Ireland, Denmark and Sweden in providing hugely valuable scientific insights and contributing to the development of economic opportunities for coastal communities.
In concrete terms, the CHART programme
will allow up to 15 charter boat skippers – selected through a competitive application process – to take paying recreational anglers to sea to catch, tag and release bluefin tuna. For 2021, the CHART program will run from 16 August to 14 November 2021. Skippers selected to participate in the programme will be issued scientific licences by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) that will only be valid for the duration of the programme. The tags will be standard floy tags and will be deployed by skippers who have been trained by Cefas (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science) and will use procedures approved by CEFAS’ Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Board (AWERB). In that context, these authorised skippers and crew will help to anchor valuable scientific and socio-economic contributions in a safe and professional environment.
Anglers’ cooperation with scientists is extremely valuable in helping to understand the when, where and why of Atlantic bluefin tuna that have been abundant in British waters since 2015. What is more, data gathered throughout this program will be used to inform the species global management body the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), in their global management and policy decisions over the coming years.
BFT UK founder Steve Murphy said "we are delighted that the UK Government has recognised the valuable contribution that recreational anglers can make to this important scientific research. Recreational angling stakeholders with UK fisheries managers and scientists have co-designed a world leading catch tag and release program that provides both scientific and economic benefits whilst operating in a regulated, professional framework."
Following a sharp stock recovery from the brink 10-12 years ago, this species is now at a crucial point to allow for its resilience. The IUCN endangered status of 2011 is a distant memory now soon to be confirmed in their 10-year update later this year. Against this background, the CHART Project has now a major role to play in ensuring that the Atlantic bluefin tuna has a bright, sustainable future not just in UK waters, but across the North Atlantic and Mediterranean.
(c) Steve Murphy and Tim Macpherson