Daniel Pauly, University of British Columbia oceanographer. (Photo: UBC)
Jack mackerel disappearing in the South Pacific, other species next
Thursday, January 26, 2012, 02:30 (GMT + 9)
Jack mackerel stocks have plummeted from an estimated 30 million tonnes to less than 3 million in 20 years. An eight-country investigation of the fishing industry in the southern Pacific by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) shows that this phenomenon foreshadows progressive collapse of fish populations across the world's oceans.
Daniel Pauly, University of British Columbia oceanographer, considers jack mackerel in the southern Pacific a startling indicator.
“This is the last of the buffaloes”, he warned, iWatch News reports. “When they’re gone, everything will be gone ... This is the closing of the frontier.”
Delegates from at least 20 countries will gather next week in Chile for an annual meeting of the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization (SPRFMO) to discuss options to curb overfishing.
From 2006-11, jack mackerel stocks took a 63 per cent-dive, scientists estimate.
The SPRFMO convention needs eight signatures to be binding, but so far only has six.
Last September, SPRFMO scientists decided on a limit of 520,000 tonnes. But Cristian Canales of Chile's fisheries research centre, Instituto de Fomento Pesquero (IFOP), said a safer figure would be 250,000 tonnes, and some dissenting experts want to ban jack mackerel altogether for five years.
Under international practice, vessels can fish as they wish in areas not governed by ratified accords.
However, the European Union (EU) mandates that ships of member states abide by SPRFMO interim measures and EU countries must also split a collective annual quota for the species.
But ship owners circumvent the rules. Transshipment at sea also undermines sustainability efforts.
In 1995, Chileans fished more than 4 million tonnes -- eight times the amount SPRFMO scientists deemed sustainable in 2012. From 2000-10, Chile landed 72 per cent of all jack mackerel in the southern Pacific.
In 2009, IFOP urged a sharp cut to 750,000 tonnes, according to Oceana. However, when the Fisheies Undersecretariat (Subpesca) raised that to 1.4 million tonnes, the National Fisheries Council approved it.
Peru, the world's second-largest fishing nation after China, is also fretting about anchoveta, a crucial source of fishmeal for aquaculture and the largest global fishery.
Roberto Cesari, chief EU envoy to SPFRMO, said he expects ratification only in 2013.
Last year, SPFRMO cut voluntary quotas by 40 per cent, but China, among other countries, opted out. It later agreed to reduce its quota by 30 per cent.
Oceanographer Pauly believes this trend will not change unless a major power — the EU or the US — takes a staunch stance.
“Somebody has to take the high ground”, he said, “and others will follow.”
- South Pacific Fisheries Convention ratified by NZ
By Natalia Real