A third of the 13.3 tonnes of Atlantic Bluefin tuna caught in Gibraltar waters since the season opened last June 16 was landed by just three local anglers, according to government data.
Government figures show the three sport fishermen caught 4.3 tonnes of tuna between them.
They were part of a small group of 10 anglers that has so far landed 9.3 tonnes of Bluefin tuna, or 70% of the total catch to date.
The Department for the Environment and Climate Change has issued 955 licences to fish Bluefin tuna, but the figures released to the Chronicle show the sport is the preserve of just a fraction of that number.
So far this year, only 47 anglers have landed fish and logged their catch with officials.
Among the top anglers in this sport, one licence holder has landed 11 fish weighing a total of 1.8 tonnes, closely followed by another fisherman who caught 12 fish weighing a total of 1.4 tonnes.
The figures suggest a similar pattern to last year’s season, during which the bulk of the quota was landed by a small group of anglers.
There is no suggestion that any rules are being broken, but officials will nonetheless be reviewing the regulations to see if they need refining.
“We will be analysing the breakdown of catches at the end of the season and considering whether we need to make any adjustment to the regulations,” Dr John Cortes, the Minister for the Environment, confirmed yesterday.
There are still 2.2 tonnes left on the quota for this year, which was increased earlier this summer from 13 tonnes to 15.5 tonnes.
The season opened in June but was temporarily suspended because of the number of large specimens landed in the first few weeks.
It has now reopened and is set to close once the quota is filled or in early October, whichever comes first.
The latest catch figures are revealed against the backdrop of concerns about the conservation of Bluefin tuna.
Earlier this summer, the Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society questioned the decision to increase Gibraltar’s tuna quota, insisting that there were strong indications that commercial fishing was taking place.
“As there is no recognised commercial tuna fishing in Gibraltar, increasing the quota for what should be a recreational sport is hard to explain,” GONHS said in a statement at the time.
Gibraltar’s quota, it added, was “already proportionally much higher” than that of any other Mediterranean or eastern Atlantic jurisdiction.
GONHS said that once a quota was reached, the season should be closed and that more tuna should be tagged and released to ensure a sustainable quota-to-angler balance.
It said quotas were set as a conservation measure and that increasing them in response to demands from anglers “cannot be justified”.