Pro­gramme aims to un­der­stand tuna be­hav­iour

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - LIFESTYLE - JIM HUR­LEY’S

TUNA is pop­u­lar and richly prized food fish. The word ‘tuna’ is de­rived from an an­cient root mean­ing ‘to rush or to dart’ and refers to the fact that these salt­wa­ter fish are high-speed swim­mers, pow­er­ful hunters and apex-preda­tors.

De­pend­ing on which au­thor­ity is consulted, there are up to fif­teen dif­fer­ent species of tuna found world­wide and the largest of these is the species found in Ir­ish waters in late sum­mer and au­tumn: the At­lantic Bluefin Tuna. Ma­ture adults grow to an av­er­age length of 2-2.5m (6.6-8.2 feet) and live for some 15-30, ex­cep­tion­ally up to 50, years.

This huge, long-lived and richly prized fish was in the past, and still is, a great source of hu­man food. Fail­ure in the past to reach agree­ment on the com­mer­cial ex­ploita­tion of At­lantic Bluefin Tuna led to se­vere over­fish­ing with stocks in the western At­lantic fall­ing by 82%. The con­ser­va­tion sta­tus of the big fish is presently rated ‘En­dan­gered’.

At­lantic Bluefin Tuna are also highly prized sport fish by an­glers. To date, fishing for tuna is banned in Ir­ish waters but changes se­cured by Ire­land at the 2018 an­nual meet­ing of the In­ter­na­tional Com­mis­sion for the Con­ser­va­tion of At­lantic Tu­nas (ICCAT) will now al­low lim­ited tar­get­ing of the species by recre­ational sea an­glers for the pur­pose of col­lect­ing sci­en­tific data only.

The Ma­rine In­sti­tute car­ried out ex­ten­sive sci­en­tific work in re­cent years to gain an un­der­stand­ing of the be­hav­iour and abun­dance of At­lantic Bluefin Tuna in the waters off the Ir­ish coast. The new pro­gramme aims to build on what has been found out to date. It will see 15 au­tho­rised an­gling ves­sels catch, tag and re­lease At­lantic Bluefin Tuna. The new pro­gramme is a pi­lot one de­vel­oped by the Ma­rine In­sti­tute and In­land Fish­eries Ire­land in part­ner­ship with the Sea Fish­eries Pro­tec­tion Au­thor­ity, the De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture, Food and the Ma­rine and the De­part­ment for Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Cli­mate Action and En­vi­ron­ment.

Ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est are now in­vited. Ap­pli­cants to the new data col­lec­tion pi­lot pro­gramme will be as­sessed on strict cri­te­ria. Suc­cess­ful ap­pli­cants will be re­quired to at­tend a train­ing day where guid­ance will be pro­vided around fish han­dling, wel­fare, tag­ging and data record­ing. All ves­sels in­volved in the pro­gramme will sub­se­quently be mon­i­tored. An­glers may par­tic­i­pate in the fish­ery by book­ing places on an au­tho­rised ves­sel.

In­ter­ested per­sons who wish to ap­ply for au­tho­ri­sa­tion are in­vited to visit www.fish­eriesire­land.ie/bluefin to down­load an in­for­ma­tion guide and to sub­mit an ap­pli­ca­tion.

The At­lantic Bluefin Tuna is a highly-prized food fish.

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