A joint press release from Angling Cymru & it's partner Bluefin Tuna UK:-
Welsh Sea Angling Stakeholder representatives and their partners Bluefin Tuna UK are pleased to announce Welsh ministerial sign-off by Lesley Griffiths MS for a Welsh Bluefin Tuna CatcH And Release Tagging (‘CHART’) programme in 2022. This announcement comes following several years of campaigning for such a programme by various Welsh sea fishing stakeholders supported by campaign group Bluefin Tuna UK. At the forefront of this have been Angling Cymru Sea Anglers, (formerly the Welsh Federation of Sea Anglers), Angling Cymru, several charter vessel operators and Bluefin Tuna UK. A number of members of the Senedd have been supportive of the proposal and we are grateful to the Minister for Rural Affairs, North Wales and Trefnydd for appreciating the value of conducting this programme.
This tuna tagging programme will operate in Welsh waters between August and December 2022 with up to ten professional charter vessel owner/operators being authorised to take paying anglers on trips to catch, tag and release Atlantic Bluefin Tuna. The programme will operate under comprehensive international guidelines, including requirements regarding permitted tackle and techniques, and strict reporting and monitoring obligations. These are designed to ensure fishers safety whilst collecting scientifically valuable data and maintaining high standards of fish welfare with minimal impact on marine habitats and protected species.
Last November, following consultations between Welsh Government’s Marine, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science Branch and a number of stakeholders, several experimental pilot trips were undertaken by experienced charter skippers Andrew Alsop and Rob Rennie alongside Welsh Fisheries scientific observers to test the feasibility of such a programme and alleviate specific concerns raised by conservation groups regarding bycatch risks to seabirds and marine mammals. These pilot trips successfully tagged multiple tuna with no bycatch incidents.
Once details of the 2022 programme are finalised, Welsh Fisheries will announce that the application process is open for interested charter skippers to apply. We anticipate this will occur by the end of June. Upon meeting specific criteria, successful applicants will be required to attend two day training workshops covering both scientific and fishing related aspects of the programme to ensure safe handling and tagging of the tuna, and minimise bycatch risk of protected species.Upon meeting those requirements participants will be authorised to fish from around mid August to mid December 2022.
Rob Cole, Press Officer for Angling Cymru Sea Anglers, said, ‘this is great news for Welsh Sea Anglers, charter skippers and those ports and communities that will host participating vessels. We have argued the benefits of such a programme for several years and it is good to see the Minister acknowledging the merit of such a programme in Welsh waters'.
Angling Cymru Patron Julian Lewis-Jones echoed those sentiments. ‘I have been fortunate enough to fish in both the Irish CHART programme and the English programme that operated in 2021. I am looking forward to experiencing the thrill of fishing for and catching these incredible fish in Welsh waters this year’.
John O’Connor, Chairman of Angling Cymru, highlighted the economic value such a fishery could bring. ‘We know that Recreational Bluefin fisheries operating elsewhere generate significant socio-economic benefits for communities and that such fisheries represent the best use of a valuable natural capital asset. This programme will help us develop our understanding of these fish in our waters, a precondition for any recreational fishery to operate. We have been supported by Steve Murphy of Bluefin Tuna UK over the last three years in our efforts to deliver such a programme. Steve was one of the prime architects of the English programme that ran last year and his support has been of great value in delivering this for Wales’.
Andrew Alsop is a very experienced Recreational Charter skipper who has previously worked on a satellite tagging research programme for Atlantic Bluefin (in 2019) and ran one of the experimental pilot programs last year with Welsh Fisheries. ‘We have been seeing Bluefin Tuna in our waters since around 2015 and regularly encounter them whilst fishing for other species. They are hugely powerful fish that require respect, the right tackle and technique. A Welsh CHART programme will help build the required expertise needed to catch these fish in a safe manner, ensuring good welfare outcomes. It is great news that Welsh skippers and anglers will be able to engage in targeting these fish in a Welsh CHART programme after several years of campaigning for one’. Steve Murphy, Founder of Bluefin Tuna UK said: ‘BFT UK, the Angling Trust and other stakeholder groups delivered a world class research programme in English waters last year. The results underlined the fantastic contribution Recreational Sea Anglers and professional skippers can make to scientific research. The socio-economic benefits are also potentially huge as illustrated in the survey carried out alongside last years English programme. I am really excited that working closely with our fellow sea angling representatives in Wales and Welsh Government Marine and Fisheries Department Division representatives, we will be able to deliver this programme for Wales for 2022'. Once the programme details are finalised, Welsh Fisheries will publicly announce that it is open for applications from eligible Charter Vessel owner/operators and how the application and selection process will work. We anticipate that applications will open in around a month, with selection training and authorisation being completed in time for the programme to get underway in August. Sent on behalf of Angling Cymru