Catches of Southern bluefin tuna in Port Lincoln. (Photo: Stock File)
Port Lincoln tuna farmers fight quota cuts
Wednesday, February 09, 2011, 15:20 (GMT + 9)
Port Lincoln’s tuna farmers triumphed over being placed in administration in 1991 and 1992 and constructed economic success in the form of tuna farms on the Boston Bay. But now they find themselves struggling against reduced annual tuna fishing quotas.
If they are able to increase the quotas, the industry could double or treble in value.
Some in the Port Lincoln tuna industry are considering suing the Federal Government over the fishing quota cut in 2009, The Advertiser reports.
"I believe we may have no other option than to take the government to court to get our quota back because they have been pandering to the greens by discriminating against an industry of national importance," said Hagen Stehr, owner and founder of Australian Tuna Fisheries and one of over a dozen fishers who started the farms. "We want compensation and our quota back and that will create more employment and that puts South Australia and Port Lincoln on the map."
He claims that southern bluefin tuna stocks have rebounded to sturdy levels.
"Our fishing boats are showing the largest tuna stocks since the early 1960s when I started fishing in the Great Australian Bight," he commented. “CSIRO aerial surveys this year have confirmed it by recording as many tonnes of fish in the sea in the first two weeks of January as in the first three months of last year."
He said this proves the quota cut was based on flawed data, and that the industry could grow to be worth AUD 1 billion (USD 1.01 million) if quotas rise.
The quota cut has purportedly cost hundreds in the tuna industry their jobs and otherwise impaired the Port Lincoln economy.
It all started when the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT), with the support of the Federal Government, decided to cut tuna quotas by 23.4 per cent to 4,015 tonnes in 2009.
"I think we should increase our quota to the original level of 15,500 tonnes. That would be ample to be sustainable," said Port Lincoln tuna fishing pioneer Lukin. "If the whole world sees the tuna stocks they couldn't believe their eyes."
Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association (ASBTIA) President Brian Jeffriess agrees with Lukin.
"Dinko has always said the southern bluefin tuna population moves in cycles and I believe he is right," he said. "If the industry has a chance to go to court why not, but I think we should tell everyone that we have the healthiest tuna stocks in the world."
The CCSBT will meet next July and decide on quotas in October.
Jeffriess said he hoped the tuna quota will rebound to 10,000-15,000 tonnes by 2015.
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By Natalia Real