Cornwall Greens say no to ‘sport fishing’ endangered bluefin tuna

Cornwall Green Party condemns an “irresponsible” proposal to promote sport fishing of bluefin tuna off Cornish coast

Cornwall Green Party has condemned the proposal by Derek Thomas, MP for St Ives, to promote “sport fishing” of bluefin tuna as a way of boosting tourist spending in Cornwall.

Speaking for Cornwall Green Party, marine conservationist Samuel Ramsden said:

“Mr Thomas is lobbying the government to approve a new ‘catch and release’ fishery to enable more bluefin tuna to be hunted by sports fishermen. He claims this would be helpful in enabling these fish to be tagged to assist in conservation work. But this shows that Mr Thomas has no understanding either of these fish or of marine conservation.

“Bluefin tuna are an endangered species, and any tagging that needs to be done should only be carried out as part of limited and strictly controlled projects, such as that being undertaken by the University of Exeter. Calling for a big expansion in so-called ‘sport fishing’ is simply irresponsible.

“With most fish species, their immune systems are directly affected by stress, which floods their bodies with hormones that can damage them, make them more prone to infection and secondary disease, and shorten their lifespan or even kill them.”

Samuel Ramsden, who has worked on tagging projects, stressed that this kind of marine conservation work is highly technical and specialised, and needs to be carried out under strict supervision by experts:

“Line fishing in particular is very traumatic for the fish, and just because they’re released alive doesn’t mean they’ll stay that way for long afterwards. You physically pierce the fish’s mouth and gill area with a hook, you exhaust them by wearing them down and landing them, and then they’re out of the water for several minutes whilst you not only tag them but also measure them, weigh them, and take photos. It’s really not good for the fish.

“In some cases it’s unavoidable, for instance where you have specific species that need to be monitored that cannot be tagged any other way, such as solitary pelagic species, which tend to be very difficult to locate, very fast swimmers, and the only one of their kind for miles around. But in those studies this is only carried out by trained experts, not by anyone who comes along, waves their wallet around and isn’t actually doing it with the welfare of the animal as their first priority.

“Mr Thomas’s proposal would also damage the efficacy of legitimate conservation projects. It would give the false impression that anyone can engage in this work when they can’t, and would cause people to question the need for expensive expert-led projects.”

Atlantic bluefin tuna are a vulnerable, slow-growing species that are heavily exploited across their range. The very high prices they command, particularly in Japan, has led to severe overfishing.

Current government regulations say that sea anglers must not target bluefin tuna unless this is as part of the limited and strictly controlled ThunnusUK tagging programme. A DEFRA spokesperson recently pointed out that “despite some early signs of improvements to Bluefin tuna stocks, there are still high levels of uncertainty around the extent of the recovery of this iconic species”.

Cornwall Green Party strongly believes that DEFRA should resist any commercially driven expansion in sport fishing of this endangered species, and that this should not be presented as part of what Cornwall has to offer as a sustainable tourism destination.