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Catches Of Atlantic Bonito Increased By 66% Spain, September 18, 12

This season, tuna vessels (arrantzales) from Gipuzkoa have increased their catches of Atlantic Albacore (bonito del norte) by 66% compared to this same period last year. However, the arrantzales fear that the species may be leaving the Cantabrian fishing grounds and therefore they may have to finalize this year’s catches before the normal season limit, which is October.
Since the opening of the coastal season in July, the 38 Guipuzkoan boats that use live bait and the 12 using the trolling method have landed 2,500 tons of Atlantic Albacore, which represents 1,000 tons more than caught during the same period in 2011. Up until today catches have been sold on auction at an average price of Euro 3.70 per kg, 15% lower than they were sold at a year ago, at Euro 4.38.
According to the secretary of the Federation of Gipuzkoan Guilds, Leandro Azkue, most of the catch is purchased by local fishmongers and only a low quantity by supermarkets. A reduced percentage is being acquired by Basque artisans canneries (the larger canneries obtain their albacore raw material at lower prices from foreign waters, such as both North and South Atlantic and even the East and South Pacific).
Azkue considers this year’s catches to be better than those of last year and says that vessels do not have to travel as much as in 2011, which has led to significant savings in fuel costs. However, he warned that small sized bonito are appearing in the waters of North-Cantabrian, earlier than usual, and could leave the area prematurely to other waters, which would shorten the campaign. The Gipuzkoan tuna fishing fleet would be forced to virtually terminate the season.
In 2011, and despite an uncertain start, Gipuzkoan tuna vessels managed to close the bonito del norte campaign -which accounts for 60% of the annual catch- with 3,500 tons, the same as in 2010; so the fleet this year still has 1,000 tons to catch to reach the same figures as the previous two years.
Nevertheless, Azkue said it is still too early to analyze the fleet catches throughout 2012 because of the uncertainty in the behavior of the species.