For a few years now there have been reports of large fish around shoals of mackerel off the coast of the Outer Hebrides. Kilda Cruises and other boat operators in the Western isles have spotted bluefin tuna on their trips to St Kilda. A few years ago the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust also reported a bluefin tuna being found washed up on a beach on the Isle of Mull.
Angus Campbell, the owner of Kilda Cruises, also runs Atlantic Marine Services (AMS). AMS provides specialist support for organisations doing marine surveys west of the Hebrides. Angus is currently investigating the viability of fishing for bluefin tuna. Specialist fishing gear was ordered from the USA and John White of Fisherman’s Outfitter, in Massachusetts, USA, came to teach the ins and outs of how to catch these massive creatures.
What is so special about the Atlantic bluefin tuna? The answer is their size, speed and that they tend not to enter Scottish waters. The average length is two metres and average weight is 250kg.
Their torpedo-shaped, streamlined bodies can travel up to 43 miles an hour. Bluefin tunas are warm-blooded, a rare trait among fish. Because of this they are able to adjust their body temperature, keeping it higher than the surrounding water, which is why they are so well adapted to cooler ocean waters.
Bluefin tuna have been seen and caught off the Irish coast for decades but it would appear that they are gradually moving north as herring stocks recover. Although bluefin tuna have been overfished during the last 20 years, some recent studies show an encouraging rebirth of the North Atlantic population thanks to some great conservation efforts in the western Atlantic.