Dingle boats land giant tuna

A big game fish, regarded as an endangered species, has been landed in fishing nets off the south west.

But the 140kg (309lb) Atlantic bluefin tuna, much prized by Japanese sushi lovers, will be consumed in Kerry — at just a fraction of its huge commercial value.

The two-metre-long fish was hauled in by two Dingle fishing boats operating a seine system 100 miles off the coast.

Under the system, two vessels work together to catch the ordinary tuna species.

It is reportedly the biggest of its species to be landed in Irish waters.

Traditionally, Atlantic bluefin tuna fetch hundreds of thousands of euro in Japan.

The species has declined by as much as 80% in the past three decades because of the demand for its delicious red flesh in sushi eating worldwide, but especially in the Far East.

High prices are still paid for the endangered fish which, in turn, encourages illegal fishing.

Strict quotas have been placed to attempt to allow the species to recover with some countries having filled their quotas months ago.

Irish fishermen hunting for albacore tuna are allowed to have bluefin tuna as a tiny part of their catch.

Former fisheries officer and now director of Dingle Ocean world, Kevin Flannery said if the Dingle boats — the Fiona K and the Atlantic Venture — had reached their quota, they would have been forced to throw it back into the sea.

“As a by-catch they are only allowed one per cent bluefin.”

The bluefin will be served up in local shops and restaurants in Dingle and elsewhere in Kerry this week and next — for a fraction of what it would fetch if destined for the Japanese market.

The standards for Japanese sushi, however, demands the fish is frozen to a specific temperature within minutes of being caught.

A bluefin double the size of the Kerry fish fetched $736,000 (€600,000) earlier this year.

But the fabulous fish landed in Kerry will, most likely, only make a couple of hundred euro in the local fish auctions, he said.

Mr Flannery said that the throwing back, into the sea, of valuable fish was sparking a huge debate.

“Some method has to be found to realise their value when hauled up in the nets,” he said.

“This is a huge animal. It is one of the last great big game fish too and it would be an awful shame if this were thrown back,” he added.



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