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Environment officials to keep close eye on Bluefin anglers

REUTERS/Jon Nazca

Tuna anglers have been asked to contact environment officials at the landing point as soon as they set off to start fishing, in a step that the Gibraltar Government says will help it better assess fishing activity in British Gibraltar territorial waters.

Anglers must also contact the landing point when a Bluefin tuna is landed on board a vessel.

Additionally, details on vessel movements based on geographical coordinates may be requested by the Department of the Environment, Sustainability, Heritage and Climate Change’s Environmental Protection & Research Unit.

These are among some of the changes being introduced this year ahead of the Bluefin tuna season which opens on June 16 with a quota of 16.74 tonnes.

A maximum number of two fish per week for each Class K licence holder and per registered vessel has also been introduced this year.

The minimum size of Bluefin tuna that can be caught is 30kgs and 115cm 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.

A dedicated office and landing point will once again be 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.

The landing point will be manned from 09:00 to 14:30 (Monday-Saturday).

Any catches landed from 14:30 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 Department of the Environment, Sustainability, Heritage and Climate Change (DESHCC).

Application forms for individuals interested in taking part in the programme will be made available online as from June 23 and further details on the tagging programme and the application process will be provided once the season commences, the government said.

DESHCC also reminded anglers that the practice known as ‘popping’ is known to have caused serious damage to dolphins and is prohibited inside the protected zone north of Rosia Bay.

“Anglers targeting Bluefin tuna are advised that casting any lines close to dolphins, which are protect-ed species, may result in their fishing licenses being revoked,” DESHCC said, though other methods are allowed within the Dolphin Protection Zone.

“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.”

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 metre radius from the animals within which vessels must travel at a constant speed of no more than 4 knots or no greater than the slowest animal in the group.

This applies equally to all vessels.