The Department of the Environment, Sustainability, Heritage and Climate Change (DESHCC) are informing all anglers that the open season for Bluefin tuna in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters (BGTW) commences today.
Anglers are reminded that a Class K licence is required to fish for Bluefin tuna and there will be a total allowable catch of 21 tonnes which will be split into two parts this year. The first part of the quota has been set at 19 tonnes for the period 16th June to the 25th July unless the aforementioned limit is reached beforehand in which case the season will be temporarily closed. The 2nd part of the quota is set at 2 tonnes and the open season will recommence on the 6th August up to the 14th October 2022 unless the limit is reached beforehand in which case the season will be closed.
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. Towing live specimens into the landing station is strictly prohibited and may result in licences being revoked. 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 DESHCC. Application forms for individuals interested in taking part in the programme will be made available online. Further details on the tagging programme and the application process will be provided once the season commences.
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 & Research Unit (EPRU). A maximum number of 1 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
The DESHCC would also like to 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 http://www.thinkinggreen.gov.gi/biodiversity/marine
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.