A giant bluefin tuna weighing 600 lbs and measuring eight and a half feet in length has been caught off of the coast of west Cork.
The monster fish is the largest specimen caught in Irish waters this year and is at the upper end of the scale as far as Atlantic bluefin tuna are concerned.
The huge fish was caught by Dave Edwards of Courtmacsherry-based West Cork Charters as part of an ongoing catch and release programme aimed at establishing population numbers for the fish in the north east Atlantic.
Dave caught the specimen on Sunday about three miles south of his base in Courtmacsherry and was assisted by Darren O'Sullivan from Cork city and Dutch fisherman Henk Veldman.
“They are much more common up in Donegal Bay where they follow the herring,” said Dave. “They are more unusual down here but tend to be much bigger when they do show up. This is the first one caught south of Donegal Bay this year and it really was a big fish.”
Dave's is one of 15 boats along the south and west coasts taking part in the catch and release programme that runs from August 15 to October 15. “It's getting close to the end of the season so we were beginning to lose hope that we would see any,” said Dave.
“Then on Sunday we had a huge fish on the reel that must have been closer to 10 feet in length but after a two and a half hours it got away. We knew they were out there then though and so it turned out when we managed to tag this one.”
The fish was so large that it had to be measured in the water before being tagged and released.
Catching Atlantic bluefin tuna requires specialist, heavy-duty fishing gear as the fish is among the largest and most powerful in the ocean.
From their spawning grounds in the western Mediterranean, they move up the west coast of Europe often following herring. In recent years numbers have declined sharply and commercial fishing is strictly regulated.
Bluefin tuna is a prized delicacy in Japan where individual fish can sell for tens of thousands of dollars. The National Geographic Channel TV show Wicked Tuna about bluefin tuna fishing in the USA has proved a big hit on television.