Tuna Champions Ready to Catch a Big One!

Photo by Al McGlashan

Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen a number of Victorian fishers open their Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT) account for 2019.  As SBT season starts to heat up from Portland across to Port Phillip Heads, there is a lot to look forward to over the coming months for offshore, recreational fishers.

We recently received some great news about our iconic SBT stocks through the Status of Australian Fish Stocks Report. After more than twenty years, SBT stocks have transitioned from depleted to recovering. Recreational fishers have a major role to play so we continue to see the improvement of our SBT stocks and ensure the sustainability of this magnificent fishery for future generations.

One way for fishers to become stewards of the SBT fishery is to become a Tuna Champion. The Tuna Champions program provides recreational fishers with responsible fishing practices including a Code of Conduct for the SBT fishery. Anyone can become a Tuna Champion by being stewards of the fishery, using responsible fishing practices and encouraging others to do the same.

One of the best ways to fish responsibly and ensure you are respecting the iconic SBT is ensuring your gear is up to scratch. Be prepared to catch a big fish like the athletic Southern Bluefin Tuna by having the right gear and making sure it is in good condition. While this may seem like a no-brainer, small moves can make a big difference!

Gaffs, rods, reels and lures may be considered standard kit for chasing big fish, but here’s some gear Tuna Champions recommend every game fisher should add to their essential tool kit:

  • Catch | using single hooks on hard body lures will minimise damage to the fish, while a heavier line class will help reduce fight times
  • Handle | using a knotless net, landing the fish on a padded mat and handling it with care prevents the damage and bruising that reduces the quality of the meat if it’s kept
  • Release | using pliers or a de-hooker to remove the hook while the fish is still in the water, or cutting the line close to the hook if removing it would cause damage or the hook can’t be seen, will give the SBT the best chance of surviving
  • Keep | an iki jime spike is ideal for quickly and humanely dispatching an SBT, while a large insulated catch bag is perfect for cooling it down in a decent ice slurry, especially on trailer boats where it’s not always practical to fit in a big ice-chest
  • Prepare | processing the SBT immediately, knowing the best way to fillet it and having a large, sharp, good quality filleting knife on hand means the fish won’t be wasted.

Looking after the fish when catching, handling, keeping or releasing it means the flesh will taste better if its kept, or it will recover faster and be more likely to survive if it’s released.

Download Tuna Champions Code of Conduct

Discover more on the Tuna Champions website, and join the conversation on Facebook (Tuna Champions) or Instagram (@bluefin38). Because everyone can be a Tuna Champion.

Tuna Champions is an initiative of the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation in collaboration with the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania, funded by the Australian Government through the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation. 

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