The consultation centres around “permitting regimes for the recreational targeting of bluefin tuna in UK waters” and is a statutory requirement because amendments to the 2020 Fisheries Act are needed to allow licensing of recreational anglers to target bluefin. Licensing is also a requirement of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). It should be noted this is not a precursor to introducing more widespread licensing of sea anglers.

Representatives from various recreational sea angling bodies, including the Angling Trust and the UKBFTA, worked with Defra throughout April and May to discuss the detail of the consultation, but it is important to note that it is Defra’s consultation and not one run by angling organisations.

It focuses on the requirements for obtaining a license and the elements of a code of conduct. Targeting bluefin tuna needs preparation, the right gear and a level of skill handling large pelagic fish and it’s important to get the right management regime in place before the fishery opens.

Anglers will have an opportunity to provide responses to the Defra proposals and, of course, the Angling Trust, the UK Bluefin Tuna Association (UKBFTA) and others will be submitting their own responses, but it’s important that all angling groups and anglers, with an interest in this, should respond in their own right. The more responses that are submitted the better the chances of getting the framework of this new fishery right.

Steve Murphy from UKBFTA says: “This consultation brings us one step closer to the world class recreational bluefin fishery that we have campaigned for since 2018.”

At the same time Defra are opening a pilot commercial fishery this year – a move which has proved controversial amongst recreational angling groups because it would appear to be rushed and a result of pressure from commercial fishing concerns. It should be noted that because commercial fishing vessels are already licensed there was no need to go through the same process required for a recreational fishery.  n

The consultation runs from 17th July until 4th September and can be access on the Defra website: