Basking Shark Map

Bluefin Tuna In The Hebrides

Nov 01 2021

Bluefin tuna in the Hebrides, Scotland

The weather in the Hebrides was very odd this summer with continuous settled weather and calm seas offshore. This allowed outstanding spotting conditions and we started to see strange wakes across the calm ocean. This indicated there was something big swimming just under the surface, but it didn’t seem to be a basking shark. We would see the wake for a few minutes before it would disappear.

Another day offshore with glass calm conditions during August, Shane had the drone ready to go just in case we found the familiar wake pattern whilst searching for wildlife. Sure enough, the same wake appeared, we were all so excited to know what was causing these mysterious ripples. The passengers on board kept their eyes on the track while the drone was sent up. Technology defeated us slightly and the drone had to be landed, distracted by the mysterious animal Shane nearly lost a finger before sending the drone back up. The drone, having almost drowned, and caused some minor injury – now had the perfect view. Much to our surprise, the animal causing the wake was a bluefin tuna – what a wonderful sight to see! We followed it for a while before it cruised off into the deep, capturing some amazingly clear footage.

We also had some tuna sightings during our 2020 season, but we didn’t experience the constant calm conditions we had in 2021. 2020 was a huge year for fish biomass and we had fish boiling the surface all over the islands. When we tell most people about seeing tuna, the usual response is one of wonder and amazement, but also that it’s very rare and likely a result of climate change. However, this is just an example of a modern sliding baseline – people are not used to unfamiliar species that have declined and so they think they are an anomaly. However Bluefin used to be very abundant in the NE Atlantic, unfortunately, they were heavily fished through the 20th century and the population collapsed. This means they were absent from our shores for decades. There has been a documented recovery in recent years, and this could be one of the signs that they are starting to return to our waters once again. Bluefin can reach over 3m and weigh over 700kg along with living till they are nearly 50 years old! A truly fantastic fish! Let’s hope we start to see them every summer now!

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