TUNNIES & MACKEREL (North-east Atlantic Ocean)

Family:  Scombridae

(Notes, not a comprehensive information page.)

Tunnies, or Tuna, used to be  found in sufficient numbers to make the North Sea, especially off Scarborough, an area famous for captures of the massive Blue-fin Tunny, Thunnus thynnus. In 1933 an angler caught the British record specimen of 386 kg (851 lb) from a Whitby boat. It is a widespread and found in all the warmer oceans but its previous occurrence into the North Sea during the autumn was dependent on the water temperature. In cold years it would not occur.

Norwegian seas supported a Bluefin Tunny fishery with an annual catch of 900 tonnes annually between 1950 and 1954. The minimum size was about 50 kg. Book. Now they an allocation for 37.5 tonnes allocated to one boat.

Most Bluefin in the north-east Atlantic breed in the western Mediterranean and are now rare captures in the North Sea. They were first reported by herring fishermen in 1911. They are always larger older fish at least 5 years old. Their current absence in the North Sea and decline since the early 1960ís was at first because of low recruitment rates (whether natural or because of overfishing), but may now be compounded by extensive fishing for the younger 3 to 5 year old fish off the Atlantic coasts of Europe, including the Bay of Biscay.


24 August 2015

                                                                          Atlantic Bonito
                                                               Photograph by Doug Herdson

Two Atlantic Bonito, Sarda sarda, were caught by a netter out of Newlyn and sold in Plymouth Fish Market.   There were other reports of these migratory fish caught, notably off Padstow, also on the north Cornish coast.

22 August 2015
A shoal of over five hundred Bluefin Tuna, Thunnus thynnus, was spotted off the coast of Cornwall. The shoal was spotted by Duncan and Hannah Jones who described the sea as heaving with these large predatory fish. British fishing vessels would not be allowed to target this protected species but French or Spanish vessels might be able to land them legally. A shoal of this size has not been seen for over 50 years.

Daily Telegraph Report

20 September 2014
We were feathering for Mackerel about one and half miles south of Plymouth Breakwater when my friend Karl Eastwood. caught an Atlantic Bonito, Sarda sarda
Report & Photograph by Jon Harris

6 September 2014
A Bluefin Tuna, Thunnus thynnus, was spotted swimming around a boat off Start Point, south Devon, by a fishing vessel laying pots. The video showed the top dorsal fin to be a yellow but the anal fin is not extra elongate which would be found in the Yellowfin Tuna, Thunnus albacares, so it is a Bluefin.

Report & Video by Alan Steer on Fishing News facebook

Late August & September 2014
Atlantic Bonito, Sarda sarda, were caught with some frequency in the English Channel. Reports have been received of at least thirteen caught in waters close to Guernsey and three from around the island of Sark, but judging by facebook  references I think more have been caught.

Report by Richard Lord (Guernsey)
Sealord Photography
Sustainable Guernsey

Atlantic Bonito
Photographs by Jon Ashworth

Bonito, caught in the Mackerel handline fishery in Cornwall, have been seen in Newlyn Fish Market, Cornwall, and one was recorded at Cawsand, south Devon,and others as far east as Dorset. This warm water fish is a slightly smaller fish seen amongst the Mackerel shoals and has been seen on occasions before, but there seems to be more of them this year. NB: In past years larger Tuna have been amongst the Mackerel even as far east as off the Sussex coast.

Report & Images on Rame Peninsula Beach Care facebook
Report & Images by Jon Ashworth on British Marine Life Study Society facebook

12 July 2014
An enormous Bluefin Tuna, Thunnus thynnus, washed up freshly dead at Kingsand, Rame Peninsula, Cornwall. It was measured at nearly 2.2 metres.

Report & Images on Rame Peninsula Beach Care facebook

17 June 2014

A dead and scavenged Tuna was found washed up in the Fleet, Dorset. The fish was in too worn condition to identify it to species.  Tuna are an uncommon visitor in summer in the English Channel.

Report & Photographs by Mark Beech

26 September 2013
A three metres long 234 kg (515 lb) Bluefin Tuna Thunnus thynnus was landed caught and landed at Tarbert, Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides, Scotland.

Report and Image on Kilda Cruises facebook
Hebridean News
25 September 2013
A large pod of Bluefin Tuna Thunnus thynnus have been spotted off the coast of Donegal, Ireland. There have been numerous reports of big fish jumping out of the water. One was caught by an angler and brought into Mullaghmore, County Sligo. This specimen weighed a massive 285 kg (628 lb).
Report by Mike Trussel on Twitter
Boat Fishing Monthly Report & Image facebook

The Western Atlantic stock of Bluefin Tuna is on the Red List as critically endangered. It is illegal to catch and land this species of fish in the UK. (It was landed in Ireland.)

20 September 2013
Bluefin Tuna Thunnus thynnus have been spotted chasing Mackerel off the Outer Hebrides including one jumping out of the sea.

Total Sea Magazine Report

19 September 2013
A rarely caught Skipjack Tuna, Katsuwonus pelamis (=Euthynnus), in English seas was accidentally stranded on a Devon beach near Budleigh Salterton. Leo Curtis and friend Ian Carrott had been fishing on the beach when they spotted the 60 cm long fish in 15 cm of water in the River Otter estuary. Skipjack are the smallest and most common of all the tunnies but they are native to tropical seas. This is the first record on the BMLSS News Pages.

Daily Mail Report with Pictures
Comments on Leon Roskilly facebook

"There have been angling catches of the south-west coast of Ireland and stranding reports on Scottish western island shores in the past."

Source: Various Reports

18 May 2013
A tunny was discovered freshly dead on the shore at Babbacombe, near Torquay, south Devon. Although reported as a Yellowfin Tuna, Thunnus albacares, the absence of the yellow on the anal finlets and the short first few rays of the anal fin indicates it is unlikely to be the Yellowfin, more likely to be a protected Bluefin Tuna Thunnus thynnus. The fish was not measured but I have estimated its length (excluding fins) to be 1.7 metres.

Report & Image by Jacob Farley on facebook

"A giant Bluefin Tuna caught yards off the South Devon coast has been seized and put on ice by government officials shortly before it was due to be sold at auction.
The 300 lb fish which is potentially worth tens of thousands of £ pounds was taken by officials from the Marine Management Organisation, part of Defra, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The species is critically endangered and it is illegal to catch or sell them in British waters."
Western Morning News Update

26 September 2012

John Shuker landed an Atlantic Bonito, Sarda sarda, off Sark weighing 5 lb. 15 oz 4 drams.

Report & Photograph by Richard Lord (Guernsey)
Sealord Photography
Sustainable Guernsey

Early August 2012
When Mitchell Burkes (from Godstone, Surrey) was walking along the beach at Ventnor near the southern tip of the Isle of Wight, he spotted at injured Tuna washed up on the beach still alive.
"I returned it to the water and it seemed to recover, however about an hour later it beached itself again. On inspection it appeared to have tooth marks near the head and I guess it must have been hit by a Dolphin or Porpoise. When gutting the fish, it contained a small undigested Mackerel, which indicates it was in good health when hit and
weighed 6½ lb (2.95 kg). I have had the fish identified as a Yellowfin Tuna, Thunnus albacares not native to the waters around the Island."
NB: The image (not copyright cleared) looks more like a Bluefin Tuna Thunnus thynnus, to me. The second dorsal fin was small and not elongate and the pectoral fin is short as well. Small specimens of this Tuna have been reported occasionally in Mackerel shoals from the English Channel over the years. AH.

Letter to the Isle of Wight County Press 10 August 2012
Information provided by Luke Richards

23 November 2011
I regularly receive reports of Yellowfin Tuna, Thunnus albacares, being caught, landed or stranded.  However, they usually turn out to be Bluefin Tuna Thunnus thynnus, the confusion arising from the finlets along the back from the dorsal fins to the base of the tail, which are yellow in the three larger species of tuna which can occur in British and Irish waters.  These are dull yellow in Bigeye Tuna Thunnus obesus, yellow in bluefins and bright yellow in yellowfins.  Adult tunas can be identified with a bit of experience Ė yellowfins have long sickle-shaped second dorsal and anal fins; bigeyes have a moderately long pectoral fin and larger eye; bluefins have a short pectoral fin.  However, in younger tuna these features are not so distinctive and identification can be very difficult.  A gill raker count will separate bluefin (34-43) from the other two (YF 26-34; or BE 23-31).

Yellowfin Tuna
Photographs by Nigel Jones

On Wednesday 23 November 2011
Nigel Jones found and photographed a 6í (1.8 m) tuna at Dunraven Bay, near Porthcawl, South Wales.  The photographs showed it to be a yellowfin, that had been washed up dead.  Unfortunately, it was at the foot of a high cliff and it was not possible to collect the fish; also when Mr Jones returned today to take some measurement and further examine the animal, it could not be found.  Presumably it had been taken out to sea again by the present exceptional tides.

This is the second yellowfin that I am aware of to have been recorded in Wales, and the third in British and Irish waters.  The first of the previous specimens was found stranded on the mudflats of the Dwyryd Estuary, Wales, on 15 October 1972 (Wheeler, 1985) and the second, a juvenile, was caught c. 110 km off Landís End, Cornwall on 7 August 2006 (which I initially misidentified as a bigeye).  Only three bigeyes have been identified - Newlyn 1985, Christchurch 2004 and Burry Port (Llanelli) 2006.  Bluefin, whilst being uncommon is a much more frequently encountered fish with a number being reported this year along the south coast from Portland to west of the Isles of Scilly.

Reports by Doug Herdson (Fish Information Services)

20 August 2011
Colin Huelin caught an Atlantic Bonito, Sarda sarda, weighting 5 lb 2 oz 5 drams or 2.333 kg, on Mackerel tackle, from the Corbière area, the extreme south-western point of Jersey.

Report and Photograph on the Sea Jersey Blog
11 August 2011
Niall Sayers caught a Spanish Mackerel (or Chub Mackerel), Scomber colias weighing 1 lb 6 oz 12 drams or 0.645 kg, had fallen for a live sandeel, this time fished in deep water over a sandbank to the northwest of Jersey.
Report and Photograph on the Sea Jersey Blog

4 August 2011
A Bluefin Tuna, Thunnus thynnus, was speared by a diver fisherman off Dorset, one of two seen.

BBC News Report
23 July 2011
Several Bluefin Tuna, Thunnus thynnus, were spotted and at least one was captured off the Dorset coast.
BBC News Report

21 November 2010
Guernsey commercial fisherman Peter Merrien landed a fish he had never seen before while fishing for Bass, Dicentrarchus labrax, near Hanois Lighthouse off the south-west coast of Guernsey. He caught an Atlantic Bonito, Sarda sarda, which is a member of the tuna family, Scombridae.  It had a total weight of 1716 grams, a total length of 53.7 cm and a fork length of 50.8 cm.

Reportby Richard Lord (Guernsey)
Sealord Photography
on the Marine Wildlife of the North-east Atlantic Ocean Group

29 August 2010
Two Atlantic Bonito, Sarda sarda, were landed at Plymouth and put on sale at the fish market. They were caught by the Mevagissey F.V. Iris in a pelagic set net. Together they weighed 3.6 kg and their fork lengths were 52 cm and 50 cm.

Summer 2010
Atlantic Bonito, Sarda sarda, seem to be unusually a common around the south-west of England with reports probable sightings of small groups of small tuna by anglers and fishermen off the South Cornwall coast from June onwards, reports of single fish being landed at Brixham and Newlyn, and two at Clovelly.

Reports and Photograph by Doug Herdson (Fish Information Services)

The Irish status of the Atlantic Bonito is that of an irregular migrant, but recently this southern fish have been showing up regularly off the Irish coast. Alwynne Wheeler records the fish as a regular migrant of the British southern coasts in summer and very common further south where it supports a regular fishery of the Spanish coast.

July 2010
This summer we have seen many reports that Atlantic Bonito, Sarda sarda, has been caught along the southern part of the Norwegian coast. Bonito is a fish that lives in warmer waters and it is seldom seen in Norway, but this summer lots of them have visited Norway. In July five specimens were caught in Ryfylke in a ring net. UWPhoto was lucky to photograph one of the fishes and also tasted this rare fish. "We can report that it tasted fantastic."
UWPhoto Report & Photograph on Facebook

25 June 2009
A metre long Bluefin Tuna, Thunnus thynnus, jumped 30 cm clear of the sea in the vicinity of a fishing boat seven miles off Shoreham-by-Sea, Sussex, in the early afternoon on a sunny day. It was speculated that this tunny (which is now rare in British seas) followed the large shoals of fish in, which in turn attracted the fishing vessel. "As it left the water I was able to catch sight of its gleaming multi-coloured sides of the the torpedo-shaped fish and the small pre-caudal triangular finlets appeared dark blue. Its weight was estimated to be about 12 kg."

Report by Mark Griffiths

29 October 2008
A small 12.6 kg tuna, discovered in Plymouth Fish market in the morning, was caught in gill net off Mevagissey, south Cornwall. It was identified as a small Bluefin Tuna, Thunnus thynnus.

Small Bluefin Tuna (Photograph by Doug Herdson)

It was originally though to be the rarer Big-eyed Tuna, Thunnus obesus.
Notes on ID by Doug Herdson

Report and Photograph by Doug Herdson
(National Marine Aquarium at Plymouth)

25 October 2008
A one metre long Albacore, Thunnus alalunga, was found washed ashore at the head of Loch Long in the Firth of Clyde, south-west Scotland. This pelagic, oceanic and migratory fish In the Scombridae family of Tunnies and Mackerel is usually found in large shoals in the mid-Atlantic in temperate and tropical waters in a more southerly latitude of British Isles and in the Mediterranean Sea. This is the first record on the BMLSS News Pages. The identity of this fish has not been confirmed. It may be another Bluefin Tuna, Thunnus thynnus.
Image (by Davy Holt)

Report by Davy Holt on the
Marine Wildlife of the NE Atlantic Yahoo Group
Photograph by Richard Lord (Guernsey) 25 July 2008
A Chub Mackerel, Scomber colias, was delivered to me alive, caught in the sea off Guernsey. I photographed it and weighed it on my digital scales at 587 grams. Earlier in the day it was weighed on the approved angling scales at 1 lb  5 oz 7 drams.  Total length was 41.0 cm to tip of upper lobe of caudal fin. Total length to a line draw between tips of caudal fin was 40.2 cm and fork length was 37.3 cm. 
Report and Photograph by Richard Lord (Guernsey)

31 July 2007

Atlantic Bonito (Photograph by Dougal Lane)

Commercial fisherman Dougal Lane caught an Atlantic Bonito, Sarda sarda, about three miles east of Sark, Bailiwick of Guernsey. The fish had a length of 511 mm and a whole weight of 1331 grams.

Report by Richard Lord (Guernsey)
6 September 2006
An Atlantic Chub (or Spanish) Mackerel, Scomber colias, caught about 8 miles south-east of Guernsey on the Guernsey side of the Guernsey/Jersey median using squid bait The black belly spots had faded completely.

Fish weighed 392 grams
Fork length 31.7 cm
TL (natural pose) 34.0 cm
TL measured to tip of bent upper lobe of caudal fin 35.7 cm.

Atlantic Chub Mackerel (Photograph by Richard Lord)
Report and Photograph from Richard Lord (Guernsey)
Laboratorio de Identificacion de Especies Pesqueras y Acuicolas, C.I.F.P.A. "El Toruno", I.F.A.P.A. C.I.C.E. (Junta de Andalucia), 11500, El Puerto de Santa Maria, Cadiz, Spain, carlos.infante.ext@juntadeandalucia.es.

In the classical taxonomy, three Scomber species are distinguished: S. scombrus, S. australasicus, and S. japonicus. Yet, some fish taxonomists have recently recognized Scomber colias, inhabiting the Atlantic Ocean, as a separate species from S. japonicus, distributed in the Pacific Ocean. Such proposal was based on significant mitochondrial DNA divergence as well as great phenotypic variation among individuals from these two ocean basins. However, in the absence of nuclear DNA data this issue remains still controversial. In this study, a phylogenetic analysis of nuclear 5S rDNA sequences was performed. A total of 30 individuals of S. colias collected in the Atlantic and 34 specimens of S. japonicus from the Pacific were characterized. Moreover, nine individuals of Pacific S. australasicus and eight of Atlantic S. scombrus were included. Maximum likelihood, maximum parsimony, and neighbor-joining analyses revealed the presence of two well-supported distinct clades corresponding to S. colias and S. japonicus, respectively. Altogether, morphologic and genetic data are in agreement with the recognition of two different species, S. colias in the Atlantic, and S. japonicus in the Pacific.

25 August 2006
An unusual discovery of a fresh but dead 27 kg (60 lb) Tuna was found on a soft mud bank at Burry Port, Carmarthenshire, south Wales, by local angler Nick Roberts and it was pulled ashore with some difficulty by three teenagers. The exact species is not known at present: the most likely species is the Bluefin Tuna, Thunnus thynnus.

BBC News Report

7 August 2006
A vagrant 18 kg (40 lb) Yellowfin Tuna, Thunnus albacares (originally identified as a Big-eyed Tuna, Thunnus obesus), was a rare capture by a commercial net fisherman 70 miles off Land's End and 2,000 miles adrift of its usual habitat in the tropical Atlantic Ocean. It was only the second capture on record from British seas.

ID by Doug Herdson (Fish Information Services)
Notification by by Nicolas Jouault
on the Marine Wildlife of the North-east Atlantic Ocean Group

7 October 2005

Photograph by Bengt Andersson

A 10 kg Tuna was discovered in a crab net south of Göteborg in south-west Sweden. I think this is a small specimen of the Bluefin Tuna, Thunnus thynnus. This large fish is now rare in these northern seas.

Report by Kent Andersson
Fiske-Kent / American Fisheries Society
Bluefin Tuna in Scandinavian Waters

7 November 2004
A 440 mm Bonito, Sarda sarda, and a similarly sized Twaite Shad, Alosa fallax, were caught in a gill net set by fisherman Mark Green near to La Tour de Rozel, on the north-east coast of Jersey. It was the second Bonito I have seen from Channel Islands seas.

 Report by Andrew Syvret
on the Marine Wildlife of the North-east Atlantic Ocean Group

November 2004
A Big-eyed Tuna, Thunnus obesus, was reported caught on road and line off south-west England. This is the first record on these report pages and the only previous record seems to be from 1985. Further details were not available at the time of writing.

Report from Doug Herdson (National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth)

5 December 2003
A medium-sized Bluefin Tuna, Thunnus thynnus, was landed at Plymouth Fish Market in the morning.  The fish was 244 cm long (fork length) and weighed 42 stone (595 kg). It was caught on the evening of 4th December at around 49°55´N 004° 40'W, that is about 24 nautical miles east of Lizard Point, SW Cornwall.

It was caught by the Scottish mid-water trawler Ocean Star (FR 894) in a mid-water pair trawl.

There have been a few catches of large tuna over the last few years to the south west of Ireland, and a number of reports of probable tunas, mainly of about one metre in length, from around Devon and Cornwall.  There were also two Bonitos, Sarda sarda,  (small tunas) caught at Polperro on the Cornish south coast at the beginning of October 2003.

Report from Doug Herdson (National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth)
 on the Marine Wildlife of the North-east Atlantic Ocean Group

29 October 1998

A massive Bluefin Tuna, Thunnus thynnus, was captured on a Mackerel long-line off Plymouth.  (Report by Doug Herdson). The Bluefin Tunny, is usually the only large species of tunny found in British seas, although it is very scarce nowadays.

Yellow-fin Tuna, Thunnus albacares, is such a rare vagrant that up to 1978, there was only one record from off south-west Wales, washed up on the beach in 1972. It usually inhabits seas of 24oC, and is a fish of tropical seas. All European records are of vagrant fish. Yellow-fin Tuna are found in the Caribbean Sea, but not in the Bay of Biscay, where the Long-finned Tunny, or Albacore, Thunnus alalunga, is fished for.

Bluefin Tunny were found at Boxgrove Archaeological Site, West Sussex, dated half a million years ago.

 September 1998
A Spanish Mackerel (or Chub Mackerel), Scomber colias, of 468 grams (16.5 oz) was caught from the shore on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland, by Neil Montgomery. Spanish Mackerel are rare this far north, and there is no entry in the Scottish records for this fish. (Scottish Angler sources).

July 1996
An Atlantic Bonito, Sarda sarda, was caught by angler of the Marloes peninsula, S W Wales in July 1996. It was only the eighth confirmed record from Wales this century. Report by Kate Lock. More.

16 August 2000
The small tunny known as the Bonito, Sarda sarda, was caught by Jimper Sutton in the nets set for Mackerel off Winchelsea beach, East Sussex. It weighed about 1 kg. Divers have seen tunnies (tuna) in the Mackerel shoals off Sussex, but the fish are rarely caught.

7 October 2002
A Bluefin Tuna, Thunnus thynnus with a reported weight of 321 kg (708 lb) was caught off the north-west coast of Ireland by angler Martin O'Malley. Bluefin Tuna were also caught of the Galway coast and in Donegal Bay earlier in the year. At least 24 tuna were hooked off the Irish coast in 2002.
Report in Sea Angler (December 2002 issue)

17 October 2001
A Bluefin Tuna, Thunnus thynnus with a reported weight of 435 kg (960 lb) is caught on road and line by Adrian Molloy of Kilcar, off Donegal, Ireland. The angler claims this as the largest fish caught around the British Isles, exceeding the giant fish of 386 kg (851 lb) caught from a Whitby boat in 1933 when Tuna were a regular catch in the North Sea.

Information from Richard Lord (Guernsey) from the Daily Mail

27 September 2000
A monster Bluefin Tuna, Thunnus thynnus, of 240 kg (529 lb 2 oz) was caught on road and line off Ireland by Alan Glanville an Englishman living and working as a commercial fisherman in Ireland, along with another the day before of 160 kg (352 lb 12 oz) while fishing aboard Brian McGilloway's boat 'Suzanne' only 2 miles out of Killybegs in Donegal Bay, north west Ireland. Alan's specimen is one of the biggest ever angled off Ireland and anywhere for the past few decade.
The British angling record is a fish of 386 kg (851 lb) from off Whitby, Yorkshire, in 1933.
The record specimen Bluefin caught by rod and line was an enormous 679 kg (1,496 lb) specimen caught off Nova Scotia, Canada, in 1979.

Len Nevell Angling Reports
EMail (Len Nevell)

List of Scombridae recorded in the NE Atlantic:

Atlantic Mackerel, Scomber scombrus
Spanish Mackerel, Scomber japonicus (see note)  now known as the Atlantic Chub (or Spanish) Mackerel, Scomber colias.
Blue-fin Tunny, Thunnus thynnus
Albacore, Thunnus alalunga  (also called the Long-fin Tuna)
Yellowfin Tuna, Thunnus albacares
Frigate Mackerel, Auxis rochei
Little Tunny, Euthynnus alletteratus
Skipjack Tuna, Katsuwonus pelamis (=Euthynnus)
Plain Bonito, Orcynopsis unicolor
Atlantic Bonito, Sarda sarda

British Record Fish (Angling) Imperial Measurements

Tunny   [Bluefin Tuna]     (Thunnus thynnus)
            lb   oz
      B 851-00-00  off Whitby                 Mitchell-Henry 1933
      S  40-00-00  Vacant Qualifying Weight
   Tunny, Big Eyed            (Thunnus obesus)
      B  30-00-00  Vacant Qualifing weight
      S  66-12-00  Newlyn Harbour, Cornwall   A L Pascoe     1985
   Tunny, Long Finned         (Thunnus alalunga)
      B   4-12-00  Salcombe Estuary, Devon    B Cater        1990

17-27 November 2010
Atlantic Bluefin Tuna is on the verge of collapse
Badly overfished in the Mediterranean Sea, where it spawns, the species is hunted for its juicy flesh highly prized by the world's sushi connoisseurs.
Fisheries managers at the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) have a chance at their meeting in Paris, France on 17-27 November 2010 to establish a comprehensive and science-based management plan that will give a good chance for the survival of this endangered species - and the centuries-old fishing tradition that depends on it.

WWF Web page

Breeding of Bluefin Tuna in Croatia (Aquaculture)

More information can be found on the following Database:
Index to British Marine Fish (External)

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