Bluefin Tuna Fishing in the Bay of Biscay
The traditional fishing method for catching bluefin tuna in the Bay of Biscay used to be trolling, but in 1949 rod and live bait (bait boat) was introduced, which meant a great leap forward in the catches of this species. The different phases of fishing with this new system are briefly described as well how the fleet developed from the middle of the 20th century and the fishing seasons and type of fishes caught in this fishery.
The Basque fishing vessels Marie Elisabeth and La Nivelle, based at the port of Ciboure (France), were the first to try out ABFT fishing with rods and live bait in 1947 (Anonymous 2008). This new system was an important development in the region as it significantly increased the possibilities of exploiting ABFT, making it possible to catch even the largest fishes using rods, and doing so in great quantities.
This new way of catching ABFT quickly crossed the border and by 1949 Spanish fishermen had already adopted it. At first wooden bait tanks were installed on deck. The water was renewed constantly (8 times/h) by a pump driven by the ship’s engine. By 1954 all of the bait tanks were metallic and were built inside the hull to form part of the structure of the vessel and had a circulation system independent of the main engine.
The fleet targeting ABFT in the 1950s was made up of around 120 vessels, from S. Jean de Luz, Hendaye and Fuenterrabía (Hondarribia) although vessels from other ports dedicated to albacore tuna, Thunnus alalunga (Bonn.), also caught ABFT (De la Tourrase 1951); hence, in that decade record catches were reached, the consequences of which are studied in later chapters.
In 1957 and 1958 the first echo sounders were installed, but the greatest advance came in the 1970s when most vessels installed radar and sonar. This latter provided great advantages to surface fishing.
6.2 The Fishing Itself
The Bay of Biscay is an area of trophic concentration of ABFT. It is a seasonal fishery that lasts from June to October and is made up of juveniles aged 1–4 (5–30 kg) and small spawners of 5–10 years (40–150 kg) whose stay is generally shorter than the juveniles. They are more common in July and August (Fig. 6.7).
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