Recreational fishing for Atlantic bluefin tuna set to start in English waters next year, the government has announced. 

New permitting regimes for recreational catch and release fisheries in UK waters expected to be in place by summer, with the first fishery in English waters planned to open in 2024.

The announcement follows a government consultation earlier this year.

Recently Bluefin Tuna have been spotted in Falmouth Bay.

The government says recreational anglers will have broader access to a catch-and-release Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery in English waters, in an announcement today (Thursday 7 December).

The government says it had overwhelming support for proposals in a consultation. Defra has now confirmed that it will introduce legislation in the spring to establish permitting regimes for the recreational targeting of bluefin tuna.

This will mean that the English fishery should open from summer 2024, supporting skippers and helping to bring more tourists to coastal communities.

The government says the opening of the fishery has been made possible following the UK’s exit from the EU, with the establishment of UK-specific quota for bluefin tuna opening opportunities to manage the species sustainably outside the EU.

Data from the fishery will be used to improve monitoring of bluefin tuna populations and ensure that the species is managed in English waters in a sustainable manner.

Fisheries Minister Mark Spencer said: “This announcement has been made possible following the UK’s exit from the EU and follows overwhelming support for our proposal across the fishing industry and environmental groups.

“It will bring social and economic benefits to the fishing industry and coastal communities, whilst ensuring the ongoing sustainable management of Atlantic bluefin tuna.”

The announcement also follows the success of the catch-and-release (CHART) tagging programmes, delivered by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, Swansea University and the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, which have allowed some recreational anglers to target bluefin tuna for the last three years.

Following the success of CHART, a formal consultation was held between July and September 2023 to gather views on the design for a permitting regime to enable the opening of catch-and-release recreational fisheries for bluefin tuna in UK waters.

Stakeholders were asked for views on the key principles for the design of permitting regimes, the level of interest and the social and economic benefits the fishery could bring.

Stakeholders gave overwhelming support for the proposals in the consultation, which included an outline of the design of new permitting regimes for the recreational targeting of bluefin tuna in the UK and an outline of Defra’s operational approach to implementing the English fishery.

Each UK fisheries administration will determine if and when to introduce a bluefin tuna catch-and-release recreational fishery in its waters.

Defra intends to open a catch-and-release fishery for bluefin tuna in English waters in 2024. Defra is currently trialling a separate commercial fishery for bluefin tuna.

This trial will run until 31 December 2023.