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Bluefin tuna season 2023 opens today

Photo by Eyleen Gomez

The open season for Bluefin tuna in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters (BGTW) commenced on Friday with a total allowable catch of 25 tonnes this year in keeping the latest regional quota increases under the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).

The Department of the Environment, Sustainability, Heritage and Climate Change (DESHCC) made the announcement on Friday and remind anglers that a Class K licence is required to fish for Bluefin tuna.

The 25 tonnes quota will once again be split into two parts. The first part of the quota has been set at 22 tonnes for the period June 16 to July unless the aforementioned limit is reached beforehand in which case the season will be temporarily closed.

The second part of the quota is set at 3 tonnes and the open season will recommence on August 6 up to October 14 unless the limit is reached beforehand in which case the season will be closed.

A dedicated landing station has once again been setup within the North Mole (No. 1 Jetty). Anglers are reminded that all tuna and billfish catches must be reported and weighed at the landing point where vessels will be able to dock.

Towing live specimens into the landing station is strictly prohibited and may result in licences being revoked. The landing point will be manned from 9am to 2.30pm Monday-Saturday. Any catches landed from 2:30pm to sunset must also be reported and weighed at the landing point by contacting the on-call landing point staff on mobile number 54020033.

This service will also be operational on Sundays and public holidays.

Building on last year’s open season, a Bluefin tuna tagging programme will also be implemented by the DESHCC. Application forms for individuals interested in taking part in the programme will be made available online.

In order to better assess Bluefin tuna fishing activity in BGTW, landing point staff must be contacted as soon as a vessel catches a Bluefin tuna. Details on vessel movements, based on geographical coordinates, may be requested by the DESHCC’s Environmental Protection and Research Unit (EPRU). A maximum number of one fish per day per licence holder and vessel will be permitted this year.

The minimum size of Bluefin tuna that can be caught is 30kgs and 130cm fork length. Anglers are also required to report any recreational catches of Billfish species, such as the Mediterranean Swordfish, which are locally classified as species in need of strict protection. The minimum size for Mediterranean Swordfish is 90 cm excluding the sword length.

Further information on minimum sizes can be found online by accessing the Department’s Species Identification Booklet _Booklet.pdf.

The DESHCC also remind anglers that the practice of ‘popping’ for tuna, which has been known to cause serious injury to dolphins, will not be allowed inside the Dolphin Protection Zone approximately north of Rosia Bay. Anglers targeting Bluefin tuna are advised that casting any lines close to dolphins, which are protected species, may result in their fishing licenses being revoked.

The EPRU will be working very closely with marine enforcement agencies during the open season in order to monitor vessel activity in BGTW and ensure that the requirements of the Tuna Preservation Regulations are adhered to.

As part of its duties, the EPRU will be emphasising the need to adhere to the Cetacean Protocol. The objective of the Protocol is to protect dolphins and whales in BGTW. It can be viewed online from Vessels are required to maintain a minimum distance of 60 metres from any dolphin or whale whilst navigating in BGTW. The Protocol also establishes a 500 metreradius from the animals within which vessels must travel at a constant speed of no more than four knots or no greater than the slowest animal in the group.

For further information on the Bluefin tuna open season contact the DESHCC on or Tel: 200 71061.

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