The recreational fishery for tuna in Tasmania is generally from late summer through autumn, peaking in February-March. The most common species taken include skipjack or striped tuna (the most common catch at 51%), albacore (46% of catch) which is popular for its eating qualities and known as the 'chicken of the sea', southern bluefin tuna
(3%) and yellowfin tuna of which much lower numbers are taken.
Popular fishing spots for tuna in Tasmania include St Helens, Tasman Peninsula and more recently, Pedra Branca rock, although the smaller subtropical tunas (albacore and skipjack) can be found along the south and east coast.
The popularity of the recreational fishery has increased over the past few years with the advent of more affordable mid-size range trailer boats and the greater availability of affordable tuna and game fishing equipment. Recreational tuna fishing is also important economically to Tasmania, particularly in regional areas, with thousands of dollars being spent on fishing gear, boats and fuel and in the gamefishing charter industry.
In Tasmania, the sub tropical tunas, albacore, yellowfin and skipjack, appear along the length of the east coast with the southerly progression of the East Australian Current. Temperate tuna such as bluefin appear in late February around the southern waters and then migrate northwards to the waters off northern New South Wales. Early indicators of the start of the recreational bluefin tuna season in Tasmania are from catches of tuna off South Australia that are migrating with the Leeuwin Current across the Great Australian Bight.
Looking after our Tuna Resource
The susceptibility of some game fish such as tuna to be overfished has been highlighted by their listing on a number of international protection conventions. Southern bluefin tuna (SBT) was listed as critically endangered in 1996 and in 2006 was listed as a threatened species by the Commonwealth government.
Recreational catches are not factored into any regulations to protect the SBT fishery nationally but Tasmania has set an individual possession limit on recreational fishers of 2. At present, any catch restrictions for the fishery are specific to the commercial sector. The Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) reported that large adult fish available for spawning remain at low levels until 2020.
Some years numbers of SBT may appear more numerous due to their highly migratory nature and schooling habits. These seasonal variations should not be seen by recreational fishers as an accurate indicator of improving SBT stocks.
The fluctuation in mature adult southern bluefin tuna being available for spawning may mean that the number of fish available to the recreational fishery is slowly diminishing to the point where it's potentially no longer viable to fish for them recreationally. The time and investment would outweigh the opportunity to catch the fish. These highly mobile fish are targeted by recreational fishers in other states and internationally in areas where they are known to follow their migratory paths. Every fish capture has the potential to adversely affect the recreational fishery in neighbouring waters and the long term availability of SBT to the recreational sector.
More InformationTuna Species IdentificationTuna Fishing GearCatching, Handling and Releasing Your TunaGood Tuna Fishing Practices
Related WebsitesTuna Club of Tasmania