View Full Version : Southern bluefin tuna quota cuts could be “too little, too late”

Davie Tait
26th October 2009, 21:08

Monday, 26 October 2009 10:47

AT A meeting last week in South Korea of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) delegates agreed to average quota cuts of 20% while the Australian quota was cut by 30%.

However the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC warned a 20 % cut in Southern Bluefin Tuna catches could still be too little, too late for the species which is on the brink of collapse.

Speaking at the conclusion of the CCSBT meeting in Jeju Island, South Korea, TRAFFIC’s Global Marine Programme Leader Glenn Sant said that even under a best case scenario, the Southern Bluefin Tuna populations would not recover for many years.

“The members agree it is a crisis with the breeding stock being somewhere between three and eight per cent of its original level,” said Sant.

“A 20 per cent cut is a step towards resolving the terribly low level of Southern Bluefin Tuna tock, with the scientific assessment of the scenario saying there could be recovery, but only after many years.”

WWF and TRAFFIC had asked for a temporary closure of the fishery, while Australia had requested a 50 per cent cut in catches.

The cut in Australian quota will be particularly painful for the tuna ranching industry based around Port Lincoln in South Australia and comes just before the start of the tuna fishing season.

Speaking to the ABC network the CEO of the Tuna Association, Brian Jeffriess said he didn't mind a cut, but that this one is unfair.

He said: “Obviously we have the biggest interests in the world in this species and Port Lincoln totally relies on it. If it's got a problem then Port Lincoln's got a problem. Now, we listen to the scientists. We may differ in some details from their view, but quite clearly there had to be a cut and we always expected a cut. The problem with this one is the pain is not shared equitably at all.”

On the other side of the world, the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna has been proposed for an international trade ban under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), with WWF also to press a forthcoming meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas for a moratorium on the fishery.

Both fisheries are plagued with illegal and over-fishing.

“Our biggest concern is the need to reduce illegal catches and ensure that members stick to their quotas so that we don’t have some members withdrawing from the bank while others bank recovery for the future,” said Sant.

“Some members have been burnt by this situation in the past when a member in effect overcaught its quota by some 200,000 tonnes over 20 years, in effect withdrawing all the stock recovery banked by others.”

At the end of two years the members will agree a management procedure that will more effectively advise them on what changes need to be made.

If this cannot be agreed in 2011 the catch will be further reduced to 50% of its current catch and an emergency rule has been agreed that if there are signs recruitment of juvenile fish to the population falls below historical lows the fishery will be shut.

“In theory this is all positive, but with the tuna stock at the lowest level it has ever been fished to, there is concern it may not recover,” said Sant.