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Census of Marine Life historians detail collapse of bluefin tuna population off northern Europe

w and equipment, including harpoon rifles and hydraulic net lifts, helped northern European fishers land burgeoning quantities of tuna.

Major tuna fishing countries at the time such as Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Germany, recorded virtually no bluefin landings in 1910 and almost 5,500 tonnes by 1949. In 1915 nearly 8,000 bluefin (690 tons) were landed in Gothenburg, Sweden alone.

In 1929, Denmark built its first tuna cannery a milestone in the new industrial approach echoing elsewhere in Europe. In the 1920s, the catch peaked at Boulogne, France, homeport for the French bluefin fishers in the North Sea.

Landings of bluefin tuna by northern European boats in record numbers soared through the 1940s and by decades end approached the catch levels of traditional Mediterranean fisheries. In 1949, Norway had 43 boats in pursuit of the bluefin; the next year it had 200. Norwegian catches briefly exceeded 10,000 tons per year in the early 1950s.

Better means of catching the tuna early in the 20th Century also attracted sport fishing pursuits and businesses, beginning in the 1920s. One sport fisher caught 62 bluefins near the Danish island of Anholt in 1928 as enthusiasm spread quickly through the U.K., Norway and elsewhere.

Abundant fish allowed recreational fishermen to establish the Scandinavian Tuna Club, which arranged bluefin tournaments in the straits between Denmark and Sweden until the early 1960s.

The authors say the fish was a top predator in the North Atlantic ecosystem, feeding largely on herring and mackerel, squid and other species. By one estimate from the 1950s, some 30% of all herring consumed by its predators in the area was ingested by bluefin tuna.

The booming catches helped strip the Atlantic bluefin population in a relative blink of time 1910 to 1950. The species virtually disappeared from the region in the early 1960s and is still rare today.

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Contact: Terry Collins
terrycollins@rogers.com
416-538-8712
Census of Marine Life
5-Aug-2007


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