The MMO has released updated guidelines on the current rules applicable to bluefin tuna in UK waters – which for the first time allows certain vessels to sell fish caught as bycatch.

This is the first year in which the UK holds its own bluefin tuna quota. Under this quota, allocations have been made to account for incidental mortality arising from the catch and release tagging (CHART) programme (see below), and for unavoidable bycatch in commercial fisheries.

No commercial UK vessels are authorised to target this stock. Any bluefin tuna caught accidentally should be released alive and unharmed to the greatest extent possible, and logbook vessels must record the discard.

If the bluefin tuna cannot be returned to the sea alive, UK vessels must:

  • Record all bluefin tuna bycatch • Report and land all dead bluefin tuna above the minimum conservation reference size (MCRS) (30kg or 115cm fork length)
  • Discard all dead bluefin tuna below the MCRS. Vessels must record all discards.

For 2021, a new licence condition allows certain English vessels to sell commercially bycaught bluefin tuna which is above the MCRS.

The MMO will issue the licence condition variation on 5 August. The licence condition may change according to quota usage. Fishers should seek advice and inform the MMO if they are landing before this date.

Selling bluefin tuna is only allowed under certain provisions. This is to prevent direct targeting. These provisions are:

  1.  A limit of one bycaught bluefin tuna to be sold per trip by licensed vessels.
  2. Only vessels with gear types with a risk of unavoidable bycatch can sell this bluefin tuna. The permissible gear types under these requirements are:
  • Demersal trawls
  • Pelagic trawls
  • Seine nets
  • Ring nets
  • Fixed nets.

These measures ‘ensure the continuation of a precautionary management of this stock’. English vessels must continue to report and land all dead bluefin tuna bycatch above the MCRS which cannot be offered for sale. The MMO may offer this bluefin tuna for scientific research, as part of the Thunnus UK project. Where this is not possible at the time of landing, fishers will be required to destroy the bluefin tuna bycatch.

The licence condition allowing for the sale of one commercially bycaught bluefin tuna per trip is currently only applicable to certain English-administered vessels, but this may change in future years.

Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh-administered vessels must continue to report and land all dead bluefin tuna bycatch above the MCRS, and are prohibited from selling it. UK vessels landing bycaught bluefin tuna are able to land at any UK designated port. If you are unable to reach a designated port, you should seek advice from the UK Fisheries Monitoring Centre (UKFMC).

When an English commercial vessel intends to sell bycaught bluefin tuna, they should prepare, pack and store the tuna for sale as usual. Traders who wish to buy English bycaught bluefin tuna will need to be authorised registered traders.

Alongside standard reporting requirements, all UK vessels must report all bycaught bluefin tuna which is dead to the MMO or the UKFMC four hours before landing.

For more information, click here.

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here.


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