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Albacore. (Photo: Stock File)

Albacore season begins with optimistic outlook for Basque fishermen

Click on the flag for more information about Spain SPAIN
Monday, July 03, 2017, 23:40 (GMT + 9)

The Basque coastline fleet, which consists of about 80 vessels employing 850 fishermen, will start the ​albacore tuna (Thunnus alalunga) season.

This fishery, which represents one of the main sources of income for the sector, takes over from the anchovy season, which has closed with catches of 14,485 tonnes until June, implying a significant increase compared to the 12,181 registered in the same period of 2016. To this, what must be added is a remnant of 15 per cent of the quota that can begin being fished as of this same month of July.

The Department of Economic Development and Infrastructures of the Basque Government points out that its special characteristics, together with the changes in its migratory habits, make it difficult to carry out a forecast of catches for the current northern albacore tuna season. However, based on the latest data, it believes there is room for optimism, as both the 2015 and 2016 seasons showed a clear upward trend.

Last year it closed with the best figures of recent years, with catches close to 6,000 tonnes, meaning an increase of around 20 per cent compared to those recorded during the same period of the previous year.

This information for 2016 confirms the positive trend observed in recent years, as the slightly more than 5 million kilos recorded in 2015 have already represented a significant increase compared to 2.9 million in 2014 or to 3.6 million in 2013.

Market prices also improved compared to 2015 and total sales volume reached EUR 23.3 million last year, up 33.3 per cent more than in the previous year, making this fishery the main source of income for the Basque inshore fleet.

More than half of the albacore auctioned in 2016 in the Basque associations was unloaded in the port of Getaria, followed by Hondarribia, Pasaia and Ondarroa. Bermeo was the only one which saw its catches fall, as a result of the exclusive use of the fishing system.

These good data were produced despite the fact that the Basque fleet had to abandon the albacore fishery prematurely after the Spanish administration forced the boats to suspend the activity for having exhausted the catch quota, having ceded part of the quota to France, an attitude that was harshly criticized by the Basque Government.

Of the 6,207 tonnes of albacore fished in 2016, more than 3,800 corresponded to specimens protected under the Eusko Label, a figure that represents an increase of 65.5 per cent over the year 2015, which was the first in which the sector itself was responsible for identifying the albacore having Eusko Label in compliance with quality and origin criteria.

In order to defend the work of Basque fishermen, the Government of the Basque Country insists on the importance of having the albacore come to the market in a different way. For this reason, the line maintained in recent years has been strengthened by identifying as many pieces as possible with the Eusko Label and involving the sector to the maximum. "In this way, consumers who come to the fishmongers can certainly know that the albacore they are buying is caught by our fishermen, that it is from Euskadi and has quality", emphasizes the Department of Economic Development and Infrastructures.

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