Massive tuna caught off Kerry coast

 

One of the big game fish and an endangered species which can fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars in the sushi trade, has been hauled in as a by-catch in the nets of fishermen off the southwest.

However the much prized bluefin will be eaten in Kerry rather than Japan and for a fraction of the cost to the diner.

The 140kg Atlantic bluefin tuna, much prized by Japanese sushi lovers, and measuring almost two metres long was caught by Dingle trawlers fishing seine stylem - that is where two boats are fishing together towing the net between them - for ordinary tuna 100 miles to the south.

The bluefin species has declined by as much as 80 per cent in the past three decases because of the demand for its delicious red flesh in sushi eating worldwide but especially in Japan.

High prices are now paid for the endangered fish which in turn can lead to 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 caught more than this they would have had to throw it back into the sea.

“As a by-catch they are only allowed 1 per cent bluefin,” he said.

The bluefin will end up in local shops and restaurants in Dinlge and elsewhere in Kerry this week- for a fraction of what it would fetch if destined for the Japanese market.

This is because the standards for Japanese sushi demand that the fish is frozen to specific temperature within minutes of its being caught.

A bluefin double the size of the Kerry fish fetched $736,000 earlier this year. But this Kerry fish will only make a couple of hundred euros in the local fish factories, he said.

The throwing back of valuable fish was sparking huge debate now, and some method would have 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,” Mr Flannery said.