Coble in rare tuna catch off Whitby

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It is 60 years since tuna were fished off Whitby but with a recent catch off Sandsend, it appears that the prized fish may be making a return to the waters of the North Sea.

Two Atlantic bonito (Sarda sarda), a member of the tuna family, were caught by the Whitby fishing coble Courageous while netting for salmon and sea trout on Friday, and bought by Matthew Asquith of Staithes-based Whitby Seafish.

Mr Asquith said that in 25 years in the business he had never seen a tuna caught in local waters.

The North Sea used to have a healthy tuna population, which fed on the shoals of herring.

The prospect of hooking a big tuna attracted big-game anglers who fished from Scarborough and Whitby.

The fishery lasted until the 1950s when overfishing of herring and mackerel deprived the tuna of their primary food sources and the population collapsed.

The two 1.75kg (3.8lb) fish, a far cry from the 400lb plus specimens that were routinely landed 70 years ago, were offered to the award-winning Fox and Hounds restaurant and snapped up by chef patron Jason Davis.

The British record for a rod-caught tuna went to Lorenzo Cecil Vaughan Mitchell-Henry who landed an 851lb fish while fishing out of Whitby in 1933.

The rare fish will be filleted and chargrilled with a chilli and fennel sauce and seasonal veg. Mr Asquith said that he “could have sold the fish dozens of times over”.

The Atlantic bonito is usually found in the coastal waters of the Atlantic ocean and has been previously caught off the southwest coast of England.

It is very infrequently caught in the North Sea, and its last appearance in 2010 was reported to the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science as a rare find.