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May 25, 2008

A Fisherman’s catch — One Bluefin Tuna

BY: Keith Ellenbogen


©OCEANA/ Keith Ellenbogen


Our expedition began early this morning — with overcast skies and swelling seas — navigating the waters surrounding Formentera Island, Spain in a continued search for bluefin tuna fishing boats.

During the course of the day we spotted two longline fishing vessels. They were the same ones we saw yesterday. But this time they were hauling in their gear. The technique of longline fishing is to release up to sixty or more kilometers of fishing line with thousands of individual baited hooks.

Before spotting the longline vessels, our first encounter was with yet another tuna cage towing tug, the Viking X, registered in Panama. Very soon after this we saw the Nuevo Isla Grande registered in Algeciras. Her sister ship, the Nuevo Isla Chica, was hauling in her line following a parallel course, a few miles away.

When we arrived the men on the Nuevo Isla Grande were in the process of reeling in the longlines to harvest the catch. Oceana’s expedition leader Xavier Pastor asked our Finish Captain, Osko Forsgard to slow down our ship’s speed to observe and document what the fisherman were catching. For over an hour we watched as empty hook after hook was pulled onboard. In the final moments before deciding to move onward the fisherman aboard the Nuevo Isla Grande repositioned the boat to reel-in, with the aid of a gaff, one bluefin tuna approximately 5 ft or 1.5m in length.

The rest of the afternoon we continued search the waters of Formentera Island but no other fishing vessels were spotted.