Atlantic bonito, Sarda sarda, a member of the tuna family caught near Hanois Lighthouse, Guernsey on 21 November 2010

November 29th, 2010 by Richard Lord

Guernsey commercial fisherman Peter Merrien landed a fish he had never seen before while fishing for bass, Dicentrarchus labrax, near Hanois Lighthouse off Guernsey’s south-west coast on 21 November 2010.

He caught a bonito, Sarda sarda, which is a member of the tuna family, scombridae.  The fish was given to the author on 29 November 2010.  It had a total weight of 1716 grams, a total length of 53.7 cm and a fork length of 50.8 cm.

bonito, Sarda sarda, caught by Guernsey commercial fisherman Peter Merrien off Hanois Lighthouse on 21 November 2010 (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

There have been increasing numbers of Atlantic bonito caught in the south-western approaches to the UK this summer.

Doug Herdson of the Fish Information Service reported two bonito landed by the Mevagissey fishing vessel Iris at the Plymouth Fish Market on 29 August 2010.

He reported to the British Marine Life Study Society that “bonito seem to be unusually common around the south-west coast of England in the summer of 2010.  There have been sightings of small groups of small tuna by anglers and commercial fishermen off the south Cornwall coast from June 2010 onwards.  Single bonito have been landed at the fish markets in Brixham and Newlyn and two at Clovelly.”

The British Marine Life Study Society also reports that Atlantic bonito have visited the Norwegian coast during the summer of 2010.  In July five bonito were caught in Ryfylke, Norway.

Fishbase reports that this species reaches a maximum length of 91.4 cm.  It is considered a subtropical fish living in a water temperature range of 12 to 27 degrees Celsius.  It lives on both sides of the Atlantic from Oslo, Norway to Port Elizabeth, South Africa in the eastern Atlantic, and from Nova Scotia, Canada to Northern Argentina in the western Atlantic.  It is not found in the Caribbean Sea.

Atlantic bonito is a rare fish in Channel Island waters.  Guernsey commercial fisherman Dougal Lane landed a bonito about three miles to the east of Sark on 31 July 2007.  This bonito had a total length of 51.1 cm and a total weight of 1331 grams.

Andrew Syvret reported a bonito from Jersey waters on 7 November 2004.  This fish had a total length of 44 cm.  The bonito was landed with a twaite shad.  Both had been captured in a gill net set near La Tour de Rozel on Jersey’s north-east coast.  Andrew Syvret also reported the landing of a bonito on 23 September 2000.  This fish had a total length of 48.5 cm and was taken in a gill net set for bass and mullet in St. Ouen Bay on Jersey’s west coast.

A “plain bonito” identified as Auxis vulgaris, which is another species of small tuna, was reported in the “Report and Transactions of the Guernsey Society of Natural Science 1882.”  Mr. MacCulloch presented a list of large and rare fishes observed by him in Guernsey, which included this species.

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