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Bluefin tuna seized from Spanish vessel in BGTW

Environmental protection officers with a Bluefin tuna that was confiscated after it was caught ille-gally in BGTW on Monday. The tuna season is currently suspended until August 6.

Environmental protection officers in Gibraltar confiscated a large Bluefin tuna that had been illegally caught in British Gibraltar territorial waters by an angler on a Spanish-registered vessel.

The fish weighing 194 kilograms was caught on Monday even though the Bluefin tuna season was temporarily suspended earlier this month.

The illegal catch was discovered by the Royal Gibraltar Police after its Marine Section intercept-ed a small rigid-hulled inflatable boat on the east side of Rock at around 8.15pm.

The RGP contacted the Department of the Environment’s Environmental Protection and Re-search Unit, which escorted the five-metre boat into Gibraltar and confiscated both the tuna and all the fishing gear on board.

“The angler is now being reported for process by the EPRU,” a spokesman for the Department of Environment said.

“The incident served to highlight the close working relationship at sea between the EPRU and RGP in combating illegal catches of Bluefin tuna.”

The confiscated tuna was donated to St Bernard’s Hospital.

So far this year, Bluefin anglers in Gibraltar have caught 13.6 tonnes of tuna legally during the period that the season has been open.

That included a behemoth 341 kilogram specimen, although the average weight of the 73 fish landed to date by 59 individual anglers was 186.4 kilograms, according to data from the Department of the Environment.

The top three local anglers landed a total of 1.8 tonnes of tuna, or 13.3% of the total catch to date.

Fishing recommences on August 6 and can continue until the 16.74-tonne quota is filled.

This year the Gibraltar Government introduced a cap on the number of fish that individual anglers are able to land, in a move that drew flak from the Gibraltar Tuna Fishing Club.

The anglers say the tuna fishery has recovered globally in recent years and that local sports fish-ing is sustainable and has a negligible impact on the species.

But conservation groups insist this remains a species that is under pressure from fishing, adding that most of Gibraltar's quota is caught by a small group of anglers.