Combe Martin SAC member Kody Chugg tempted this 11lb 9oz specimen spurdog on a recent trip to the North Devon shoreline.
The case for a UK Recreational Live Release
Since 2015, Atlantic Bluefin Tuna have appeared late each summer in substantial numbers all across the UK’s Western waters, from Dorset to the Shetlands.
A significant change in the spatial distribution of the species is underway with fish now regularly appearing in UK, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and Irish waters each autumn.
It seems likely a combination of long term (20-40 year) climatic cycles, climate change, and the substantial recovery of the species since 2010 are factors in this change.
The most recent stock assessment from ICCATi, SCRS Advice 2020ii (9/2020) stated:
‘….important changes in the spatial dynamics of bluefin tuna may also have resulted from interactions between biological factors, environmental variations and a reduction in fishing effort.’
‘the available data do clearly indicate that the biomass…… has increased since the late 2000s, is high at present, and that there are no concerns that overfishing may be occurring under the current TAC…..’
‘The combination of size limits and the reduction of catch has certainly contributed to a rapid increase in the abundance of the stock’.
With the UK now outside of the EU, we have joined ICCAT as a sovereign member, and are able to chart our own path re the management of Atlantic Bluefin in UK waters.
Dozens of other ICCAT members operate recreational Bluefin fisheries, including our non quota holding neighbours such as Ireland, Denmark and Sweden, who have for several years operated large scale angler led CatcH And Release Tagging (‘CHART’) programs. But not the UK.
We believe there are strong arguments to establish a large-scale, Recreational Live Release fishery in UK waters from 2021. Such a fishery would be tightly regulated and licensed as per ICCAT requirements.
It would allow both valuable scientific research through associated data recording and tagging, and bring great socio-economic benefits to UK Coastal Communities.
By engaging anglers and local communities in the management of this species it will help secure the future of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna in UK waters.
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.
Applying a 5% mortality rate leverages quota into 20 ‘catch and release events’ for every one estimated post release mortality. Assuming one ‘hookup’ per day, that is 20 Charter Vessel bookings generating circa £15,000 even before the ‘tourism dividend’ from visiting anglers is factored in. In contrast, that one Bluefin dead on the dockside commercially is worth around £2-3,000v. The substantial revenue benefit is very clear.
Another illustration of the value of recreational Bluefin fisheries comes from the US, the town of Hatteras, North Carolina.
A winter Bluefin fishery was discovered in 1994 as changes in the Gulf Stream brought the Tuna closer inshore. (Comparable to the 2016 event in UK waters?)
The US Fisheries authorities moved to support this fishery via transferring quota and licensing opportunities to Hatteras. Anglers flocked to this new fishery and to this day Hatteras’ winter Bluefin Tuna fishery is a mecca for anglers from all over the world.
Just three years later in 1997 a comprehensive study by the University of Texasvi concluded that this fishery was generating in the order of $5million per year for the community of Hatteras. The report detailed how widespread these benefits were. Numerous businesses and hundreds of employees in the hospitality and tourism sector were direct beneficiaries of this new fishery.
Securing their future.
Engaging local communities in such science has been shown to raise awareness and support for conservation minded policies towards valuable yet vulnerable species. ‘Community science’ bears real dividends in shifting attitudes.
There is evidence worldwide of the economic benefits recreational angling can bring to coastal communities. The leveraging of small amounts of quota in live release fisheries for species such as Bluefin is a very effective use of valuable and often limited quota.
When they also deliver real, measurable socio-economic benefits to communities the support for sustainable long-term management strategies is boosted significantly.
In delivering both valuable scientific and significant socio-economic benefits for stakeholders such fisheries help ensure the future health of these species.
The UK has an opportunity to join the dozens of ICCAT members operating recreational fisheries of a stock that has recovered significantly in the last ten years. Significantly, in establishing an exclusively Live release, well regulated fishery with an important parallel research program, it can set a new world leading benchmark in the optimal, sustainable management of an iconic, valuable species.
i The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna, the Global management body for the species.
v Based upon data from Pew Charitable Trust, Norwegian Pisheries authority, and Canada’s Dept of Fisheries and Oceans vi https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1577/1548-8675(2002)022%3C0165:TEIOTR%3E2.0.CO;2
Well known angling book publisher and conservatists River Reads, received very welcome news going into 2021.
Owners Keith & Sandy Armishaw of Great Torrington, responsible for high quality publications of works by authors such as Fred J Taylor, Chris Yates, Fred Buller, Charles Inniss, Des Taylor and River Monsters own Jeremy Wade (to name a few), announced that son Lee will be pursuing his life-long passion for all things fishing, by joining forces with the Devon based company.
In his fledgling company ‘Watersmeet Publications’, Lee will be working with River Reads and Angling Heritage to continue with more quality book productions that will help to preserve the contributions of some of anglings best known names.
With work already underway on further books, ‘Watersmeet Publications’ will combine the experience of the renowned publishing firm, with Lee’s passion for angling and knowledge of digital tools to develop the business, securing the long term future of the company and providing an excellent platform to produce more quality works.
If you haven’t already, then following River Reads & Watermeet Publicatons on facebook and Instagram is well worth doing to check for news, upcoming (and existing productions) and angling exploits.
The quote ‘’There is a book in everybody’’ rings true and whether you are a budding or established author, if you are considering publishing your book, then get in touch and explore what options are available to you.
It was good to be beside the calm waters of my local trout fishery as a weak wintry sun peeped through the morning clouds. I threaded a five weight floater line through the rings relishing a quiet couple of hours searching the water. I tied a buoyant fly from barbless flies https://www.barbless-flies.co.uk/products/stillwater-dinkhamer-selection and suspended a couple of small nymphs beneath it. I stretched the line out across the water retrieving at a slow pace focussing on the floating fly. On the second cast the fly disappeared and I tightened and felt the pleasing resistance of a rainbow trout.
I spent the next half an hour enjoying the motions of fly fishing. The swish off the rod and pleasing settling down of flies and line one upon the calm water. With no further action I pondered upon the fact that a trout so often falls on the first couple of casts at the water. It is as if the catching of that first fish transmits a warning to the lakes residents?
A change of tactics is called for and I tie on an olive damsel removing the buoyant Dinkhammer and cast out allowing the bead headed lure to sink deeper into the lake. After a couple of casts the line draws tight and a vividly spotted full tailed brown trout is brought protesting to the net.
With a brace of trout secured its time to stroll back along the lakeside taking note of the daffodils pushing forth in a promise of the coming spring.
I return home for Sunday dinner and still have time for a walk around the village on a quiet winters day with thoughts of better times ahead.
Combe Martin SAC member James Corner fished a local rock mark to land this specimen conger scaling 23lb.
I have had several anglers message me regarding fishing in lockdown and what the position is. The Angling Trust have successfully lobbied Government resulting in angling being allowed within the lockdown guidelines. See updated guidelines below from the Angling Trust.
The problem with the guidelines is that it leaves a certain amount of freedom to interpret for example what is local. Local is within your town or village, though you can drive a short distance to access an open space. I have reluctantly decided to hang up my rods until after lockdown as I live ten miles from the coast. Could I justify travelling ten miles to go fishing? Is it essential travel? Everyones circumstances are of course different and angling could be a lifeline to many giving valuable exercise for both body and soul. The sooner we can get on top of this COVID nightmare the better and staying home for a few weeks is surely worth the long term result.
In the mean time I will be enjoying a couple of books I received at Christmas that will hopefully inspire me in the coming spring and summer.
I will also be sorting through my fishing gear putting new hooks on old lures, tying rigs and having a general tidy. Might even stock up on a few flies, lures and bits and pieces. In the mean time I will try and write a few features on North Devon Angling plus report on any catches reported to me from those fortunate enough to live close to fish filled waters.
There was an old hut on the pier at Ilfracombe where I used to fish along with many local anglers. I had forgotten all about the hut until joining a discussion reminiscing about fishing from the old pier that was demolished close to twenty years ago. The pier could be fished at all states of the tide and being high above the water was a safe place even during winter storms.
During those cold winter nights as the waves pounded against the pier’s concrete pillars, the hut gave a place to shelter. Huddled within anglers would pour a hot drink and enjoy a smoke as they glanced frequently at their rods resting upon the ramparts. The hut and its surroundings had a strange aroma of stale bait and urine. Despite this there was a certain comfort in this old hut. The camaraderie of anglers enduring the worst of the weather whilst sharing that dream of big fish and embellishing stories of battles won and lost over past seasons.
The talk of the old hut on the pier stimulated me to remember other fishing huts and lodges I had visited over a lifetime of angling adventures. At Stafford Moor trout fishery during the late 1970’s I recall the large fishing lodge. Its stark breeze blocked walls and large windows that allowed in plenty of light. Old leather chairs and sofas encircled a scruffy old wooden coffee table that was strewn with old copies of Trout and Salmon magazines. During the cold days of early spring the lodge gave a welcome respite from the cold winds that swept across the windswept moorland. Back then many trout fishers still tended to fit a certain stereo type of upper class gentlemen who talked in that distinctly old English way. As a young long haired youth, I soon learnt that fishing is a great leveller with the shared interest melting any barriers of class or age.
On North Devon’s rivers there are many splendid fishing huts my favourite being an old Tudor styled hut that sits beside the River Torridge at Little Warham. The hut is situated well above the flood line and looks out over the ever flowing river. It is not grand but has a certain timeless charm and has undoubtedly been a place of refuge for anglers over generations and I can imagine the Majors and Generals contemplating the complexities of wartime as they took a break from the pursuit of the once prolific salmon. The tranquillity and perpetuity of the ever flowing stream must have brought solace in those troubled times.
On the River Test in Hampshire I joined two friends for a days fishing from its manicured banks. The immaculately decorated hut was plush and clean in contrast to that grimy old hut on the pier. Further up river we came across an old wooden shelter with an old bench on which were carved the words, “ Sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits”.
On the Lower reaches of the River Taw there are the remains of the Barnstaple & District Angling Clubs hut. Its corrugated sides and roof were painted green. Today it is in a sad state of decay and most of the club anglers who gathered there have long since departed. The rod rack remains empty and ivy and brambles have encroached taking back the old hut. The river still flows majestically past through the seasons though sadly the once prolific salmon are few and far between. There is something about angling huts that is hard to put into words.