This huge Atlantic bluefin tuna was washed up in Chichester Harbour where it was recovered by the team at Thorney Island Sailing Club. After Simon Horsfield took these photographs, they called in the IFCA who took it in their patrol boat “Watchful” to their Shoreham base for analysis. It was weighed at 180kg. The IFCA officers Dr. Jen Lewis and Nick Rogers took tissue samples from the carcass and took measurements. It was found to be in very good condition and had only recently died. The body appeared to be undamaged so there was no indication it had been caught by line or net. Because the cause of death was uncertain, the body was then disposed of.
Chief fisheries and conservation officer Tim Dapling was interviewed by the Shoreham Herald and said “Historically bluefin tuna regularly frequented UK waters, feeding upon plentiful prey fish species such as herring and mackerel, however global fishing pressure due to high demand and prices caused bluefin numbers to drastically decline over the past century, to the point that they were classified as an endangered species by the IUCN.
“This is a very unusual and positive event in terms of fisheries the marine environment and the presence of a key species. Although it is a pity the fish was not alive, it is first time we have an encountered at close quarters a Bluefin tuna specimen in Sussex coastal waters. There are various reports of Bluefin tuna in the wider channel area and we know they are regularly sighted further to the west off Devon and Cornwall. It was a quite remarkable and impressive fish, why it was in Chichester Harbour or came ashore may never be clear, but we do know species such as mackerel and bass are present in numbers within the harbour and perhaps it entered the harbour to feed and became disorientated.
“A fish of this size and species is used to open sea areas where it can swim unconstrained to hunt prey. “The adult Bluefin tuna are at the top of the marine food chain and the increasing presence of top predators typically indicates the improving health of ecosystems. Of course, this was just one fish, however I’d be surprised if it was the only one in Sussex waters.”
Local anglers have reported seeing tuna in the area. Because it is illegal to target, boat or land a bluefin tuna in UK waters, any closer encounters are probably not reported!
Thanks to Simon Horsfield of Thorney Island Sailing Club for permission to reproduce these photographs.