Cuts to global bluefin tuna catch announced



Fishing gear

Credit: Clipart

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The worldwide fishing quota of southern bluefin tuna has been cut by 20 per cent, following difficult negotiations at last week's meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna in South Korea.

Stock levels of the southern bluefin - which have been steeply declining - are now dangerously low, with a report presented to the Commission members said to indicate stocks are at five per cent of 1940's levels.

The Commission, which plays a vital role in managing southern bluefin stock levels, agreed to a 20 per cent cut in the total allowable catch of the fish around the world, taking the global quota down to just under 19,000 tonnes, in order to give the fish a reprieve and chance for recovery.

The Commission decided that key southern bluefin fishing countries, including Australia (which pulls in around 40 per cent of the world's catch), are to reduce their average catch rates by 25 per cent over the next two years in order to help achieve this.

Australia's average catch per year will be reduced from 5,265 tonnes to 4,015 tonnes over 2010 and 2011.

In 2010, members will work on new international rules to apply from 2012, which will be designed to ensure the long-term future of the bluefin.

"The agreement provides hope for the long-term profitability and sustainability of the stock," said Fisheries Minister Tony Burke in a statement.

He added that, given the initial impacts the reductions are expected have on Australia's existing $187 million southern bluefin tuna industry, the decision "was not taken lightly". However, the Government will work with the industry to determine how the reductions would be spread over the two years, he said.

The decision regarding the cut has been met with mixed responses.

Industry representatives are reportedly concerned about the "inequity" of the quota cut allocations, particularly with Japan, accused of greatly overfishing the southern bluefin, looking at a 20 per cent cut compared to Australia's 25.

There has also been disappointment expressed amongst some green groups, after initial reports suggested a 50 per cent global cut may have been on the table, and after groups including the Humane Society International (HSI), WWF and the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, unsuccessfully pushed for a complete suspension of the global catch until the industry could resume on a more sustainable basis.

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