case study: Cornwall Marine Network are supporting the Bluefin Tuna project

Overview of the project

CHART is the acronym for a recreational scientific ‘CatcH And Release Tagging programme’ for Atlantic bluefin tuna (ABT). Charter skippers have applied to join the programme and those selected will be trained in catching, tagging and data recording techniques so that they can contribute to ABT research, while also protecting ABT welfare. Once trained, skippers will secure an MMO scientific licence for the duration of the programme in 2021, allowing them to take paying customers out on ABT fishing trips. All activities will be closely monitored by Cefas to ensure that the benefits of the programme are maximised, and that risks to ABT welfare and conservation are minimised. This project will contribute to the wider Marine Tourism objectives noted above by drawing paying customers to the Marine clusters around local ports.

The participants were businesses operating recreational sea angling charters. Skippers and crew who had extensive experience of general angling as well as catch & release shark fishing. Only a small number of these skippers had any previous experience with Atlantic Bluefin Tuna which requires very different techniques and gear. The knowledge gap was considerable. There was also a considerable opportunity to extend the charter tourist season and improve the viability of the sector.

Barriers faced before and during the activity

A small number of skippers and crew had fished for Bluefin Tuna before and as such the level of additional training needed and the requisite learning curve was steep but critical there was no readily available training course or materials available. This gap in provision required the creation, development and roll out of an initial training programme which would then be supported with ongoing “on the job” training.

ESF Business Clusters was used to create a new training package using training needs analysis, creation of training videos and on board one-to-one support. The package was then trialed with the first cohort of businesses. Feedback from this initial pilot work is being used to improve the initial package and build in further modules.

Outcomes and impact

The CHART programme overachieved in every metric which is testament to programme design as well as the attention and focus placed on the importance of the initial training and ongoing sharing of best practice.

The stretch target for tagged fish was 250. At the end of the programme 704 had been successfully tagged and released. The level of expected incidental mortality was set at 5% and actually was much less at 1.4%. This level of success is in part a result of the initial training provided and the ongoing support that Business Clusters provided.

The data set obtained is significant and will make a valuable contribution to the ongoing scientific work with this species. The dataset was not restricted to Atlantic Bluefin Tuna but included sightings data for many dolphin species, Thresher Shark, Minke Whales, Fin

Whales, Porpoise, Sunfish and bird life. This data set will feed into the local network and strengthen understanding of changes to the species in our local waters enhancing the future of the Charter sector of our Tourism offer.

We have demonstrated that there is a world class fishery in Cornish waters and that we have the skippers and crew with the skill sets to catch, recover, tag and release these iconic fish. This contributes to the economic future of local communities in Cornwall and parts of the wider SW