I hope you are all having a great summer and getting some time to relax. Parliament is currently on recess which has given me a lot of time to get out and about in the constituency, but I am also keeping a close eye on work that the government is doing. It was great to learn that some 40 skippers and crew members from fishing ports across South-West and Southern England have successfully completed their specialist training in Falmouth to catch, tag and release Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (ABT). The skippers are taking part in CHART, a Defra-funded pilot programme. This aims to provide important scientific data on the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna while benefiting coastal communities and offering an exciting opportunity for recreational anglers to encounter these ocean giants. The completion of training means they are on track to be granted scientific licences to fish Atlantic Bluefin Tuna from August to November this year. This unique collaboration brings together for the first time in England a breadth of fishing, science and conservation interests in support of this innovative approach to tuna conservation.
This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase a world-class sustainable fishery on our doorstep, with the economic benefits of sea angling worth £1.5bn to the UK. The skippers were selected by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries, and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) and will join forces with a team of scientists and expert organisations, such as Marine Management Organisation (MMO), Bluefin Tuna UK and Natural England, with the aim of collecting data to improve the scientific understanding and management of bluefin tuna. CHART skippers must be trained before being licenced to take out paying customers to catch Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (ABT), to then be tagged and released by trained skippers or crew. Bespoke workshops led by Cefas scientists and sector experts. The mandatory training in fishing, tagging, fish handling and data collection techniques is designed to ensure compliance with strict operating standards aiming to safeguard animal welfare and support the conservation objectives at the heart of this valuable citizen science initiative. In recent years, the number of reported sightings of these fish in UK waters has been increasing. This has led to a growing interest in the species from the science community, recreational fishing groups, and the commercial fishing sector. Representatives from the recreational fishing sector suggested that a CHART programme could contribute to international ABT research, as well as the potential socio-economic benefits it could bring to coastal communities. A CHART programme in South-West Ireland has been in place since 2019.
Before I sign off, I must say well done and congratulations to our fantastic Team GB athletes who have been competing in the Tokyo Olympics. The British team has done incredibly well under the difficult circumstances these games have taken place under and they should be very proud. We have several competitors from Cornwall in attendance, and it is extra special to see them performing so well on the world stage.