THE viability of fishing for large bluefin tuna off the Outer Hebrides is being investigated.
An Isle of Harris fishing skipper and tourism operator, who recently became the star of a US TV show, is working with Marine Scotland to track and trace the species, which are prevalent in the Mediterranean Sea, around the west coast of Scotland.
Captain Angus Campbell, from Kilda Cruises, caught a 515lb bluefin tuna in the Outer Hebrides waters back in 2013 and recently starred on the Outdoor Channel’s Trev Gowdy’s Monster Fish programme, watched by millions of viewers. During the programme, the presenter, American fishing expert Fred Lavitman, expresses doubt about finding tuna in Scotland, before finally hooking a 500lb fish. Large bluefin tuna have become more common over recent years.
It is thought that they are gradually moving north as herring and mackerel stocks recover and the water temperature rises. Mr Campbell is carrying out the study with Marine Scotland to tag tuna with satellites and track where they come from and where they go to.
He said: “After I caught the first rod-line caught tuna in Scotland, I was approached by the American TV producers. The advertising the Outer Hebrides has received from the programme is incredible.”
He is also collaborating with UHI Lews Castle College in Stornoway to carry out water temperature sampling, adding: “This will provide a clearer idea of time and water temperature change and how it corresponds with the arrival of the tuna” Anne MacAulay, from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, who are supporting the project, said: “The tuna study aims to support ocean science research, enabling us to gain a wider understanding of the marine life in the Outer Hebrides and the opportunities it presents for economic development.”
Francis Neat, a researcher from Marine Scotland, said they needed to learn more about blue fin tuna in Scottish waters – how many there might be, how long they reside here, where they come from, and where they spawn.
He added: “By working with Angus we were able to satellite tag three of these giant fish last year. The information we received suggests that the tuna swam thousands of miles and dived to depths in excess of 1,000 metres.”
Bluefin are the largest tuna and can live up to 40 years. They hunt by sight and have the sharpest vision of any bony fish. There are three species, Atlantic – the largest and most endangered – Pacific, and Southern.
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