The development of a Blue Fin Tuna fishery


In 2023, 39 tonnes of the UK's Bluefin Tuna commercial fishing quota was allocated to establishing a small-scale fishery. The SWHFA has  four members with licenses to catch Bluefin Tuna.

The fishery, which is regulated by the international commission for the conservation of Atlantic Tuna, aims to prove and establish a sustainable small scale fishery in UK waters.

Fishermen around the south west have noted the seasonal influx of widespread large shoals of these predatory fish in UK waters for decades. After many years discussion with UK Government and fisheries research bodies a pilot fishery was announced in 2023.  The handline association then submitted a fishery management plan for a hook and line fishery which was highly traceable and with the correct handling of the fish to ensure high grade tuna products.

Four members of the association have UK Licences to fish for Atlantic Bluefin Tuna in local waters in 2023 season.  They have completed a training programme on how to reach the best possible Japanese and US standards for chilled tuna quality. And have a grant support from EMFF to ensure the best possible equipment.

Since September 2023 members were landing premium quality tuna at ports in Devon and Cornwall to fish markets and fish merchants.  The buyers, chefs, auctioneers and fishmongers are thrilled with the amazing tuna products.

Catches of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna are tightly controlled through international law and quota.  The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas controls the UK quota and SWHFA reports every catch and every fish to ICCAT through the UK Government.

The allowable catch is tightly monitored and research is available through the ICCAT website.

Blue Fin Tuna

Blue Fin are the largest tunas. Their migratory paths take them across all oceans. These creatures can dive to a max depth of around 900m, are built for speed-they have retractable fins, grow to around 2-2.5m in length and  weigh as much as 250kg. 
The Bluefin hunts by sight and has the most accurate vision of all bony fish. The adult diet is mainly Herring, Mackerel and other bait fish.

Blue fin Tuna is the most prized of all Tuna, with Atlantic Blue fin topping that list.  These powerful and majestic predators will prove to be an exciting challenge to the SWHFA.

Our four licensed boats

When the MMO announced the establishment of a trial fishery, a number of our members instantly applied and were granted licenses. The four boats, Aquila, Beryl M, Prospector and Mystique II have been out at sea 


It was more than just a matter of applying for a license, heading out and catching Bluefin. Our members with licenses, researched and undertook training, following the methods and skills learned by other established Bluefin Tuna fisheries


The first catch

The first bluefin landed was by our member Chris Gill, whilst the first landed at Newlyn was by Chairman Andrew Pascoe and Adam Harvey of the Prospector. The fish weighed approximately 243kg and was over 2m in length.

Blue fin Tuna preparation: Ike Jime

Ikejime, a traditional Japanese fish harvesting technique, goes beyond mere practicality – it's an art form deeply rooted in respect for the environment and a commitment to delivering the finest quality seafood. Derived from "ike" (meaning alive) and "jime" (meaning to pierce), this method involves a precise and swift spike to the fish's brain, ensuring a stress-free and humane end.

The key to ikejime lies in its impact on fish quality. By swiftly disrupting the nervous system, the fish enters a state of immediate brain death, preventing the release of stress hormones that can negatively affect meat texture and flavor. This results in exceptionally fresh and flavorful fish, making ikejime a sought-after practice in the culinary world.

Beyond its culinary benefits, ikejime stands as a testament to sustainable fishing practices. Traditional mass harvesting methods often lead to bycatch and unnecessary environmental strain. Ikejime, however, allows fishermen to target specific species with precision, minimizing collateral damage to marine ecosystems.

The technique's precision is crucial; practitioners must master the art to achieve its intended effects fully. Timing and accuracy are paramount – a well-executed ikejime enhances the fish's eating qualities, while mistakes can compromise the overall quality of the catch.

Ikejime has evolved over centuries, adapting to various fishing practices and species. Different regions have developed their variations, incorporating cultural nuances and specific tools. Despite these variations, the underlying philosophy remains consistent: ethical treatment of marine life for the sake of both the environment and the end consumer.

In recent years, ikejime has gained international recognition as chefs and consumers alike seek sustainable and high-quality seafood. The technique is not limited to Japan, as fisheries worldwide adopt its principles. As consumers become more conscious of their food sources, ikejime exemplifies a harmonious balance between culinary excellence and environmental responsibility.