Worldwide, recreational fisheries for Atlantic Bluefin are the source of much of the data and scientific study that informs crucial management decisions.
The Irish and Scandinavian ‘CHART’ programs have tagged and released over a thousand Bluefin in the last two years, providing valuable data to fisheries managers. A combination of hi tech ‘Satellite tags’ and large scale ‘spaghetti tagging’ have been favoured and supported by ICCAT and conservation bodies such as the WWF.
The UK has limited itself to a Satellite Tag program applying c55 tags at a cost of £1,000,000, providing no socio economic benefits to coastal communities.
A larger scale recreational fishery would be able to supplement the information they have obtained with much additional data via a parallel research program.
Recreational Bluefin Tuna fisheries have been shown to generate significant economic benefits for the coastal communities hosting the fishing fleets.
Live release fisheries in particular have been shown to be the optimal use of Bluefin resource, generating multiples of revenue per tonne that of commercial harvesting.
The ‘Giant’ Atlantic Bluefin Tuna seasonally inhabiting UK waters present a particularly attractive angling challenge. Anglers will travel great distances (globally) and spend significant sums to catch, photograph and release ‘the catch of a lifetime’.
Here are two examples that we can highlight to illustrate the potential economic benefits of such recreational fisheries .
A substantial Bluefin Tuna recreational live-release fishery was established in the waters off Nova Scotia from 2009. It was allocated a portion of Canada’s Quota for Bluefin as ‘mortality quota’ for an exclusively Live Release recreational fishery.
An independent study of this fishery in 2012 ‘Reeling in Revenue’iii concluded:
‘live release bluefin have the potential to generate up to six times more revenue on a per tonne basis than a commercially caught bluefin’.
The study estimated that recreational charter revenues generated Can$100,000/tonne versus the dockside value from commercial fishermen of Can$17,000/tonne.
This was before additional revenue generation related to the fishery was assessed, i.e. visiting angler expenditure on hotels, restaurants, fuel, bait, tackle etc.
In 2014 in a CBC news interview Bluefin charter boat captain Robert Boyd stated:
‘With the charter industry, right now we’re employed for six to seven weeks every fall, instead of just one or two days (harvesting their commercial quota).
The economic spin offs to that are just as valuable to the surrounding community as much as they are to us…It’s different from commercial fishing. It’s more of a tourism business than a fishing business…’
Live release fisheries do this via leveraging quota that must be set against possible mortalities, (that are fraction of, by definition, a 100% rate commercial fishery).
Multiple studies (Stokesbury et 2011 for example iv) show that this can be kept to around 3-5%. Canada incorporates a 3.6% mortality assumption in its fishery.