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Tuna purse seiner fishing in the Pacific. (Photo: Greenpeace/Paul Hilton)

Delegates threaten to disempower CCSBT if it ignores plight of bluefin tuna

Click on the flag for more information about Australia AUSTRALIA
Thursday, August 25, 2011, 01:20 (GMT + 9)

Representatives from Australia and New Zealand at the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) have urged action to save the critically endangered fish – or the decision may be wrested away from them.

CCSBT member nations are working to devise a management plan for southern bluefin tuna, a fishery that has plunged to just 5 per cent since industrial fishing began in the 1940s.

“Even in the absence of fishing the stock would not recover to our agreed interim rebuilding target of 20 per cent by the year 2020," lamented Phillip Glyde, head of Australia's delegation.

CCSBT’s special meeting is expected to employ advice from its own scientific committee to decide on a "management procedure" for the species -- a three- to four-year plan that might entail changes to fishing quotas or a full halt to commercial fishing, ABC reports.

“In Australia's view, if we do not reach agreement on management procedure that will form the basis of setting global catch levels for 2012 and beyond, we can expect there will be a concerted effort to take decisions about sustainable catch and commercial trade on southern bluefin tuna away from [CCSBT]," Glyde said.

Although Australia believes catches should be kept at precautionary levels in the first years of rebuilding, he explained, ongoing positive indicators may justify global catch levels to increase.

Australia's tuna fishing industry may thus request an immediate 25 per cent hike in the quota.

But environmentalists caution that the tuna observed in South Australia are juvenile and will not be able to spawn for years.

Alexia Wellbelove from the Humane Society International (HSI) said fishing must stop.

“It is difficult for HSI to see an option other than a zero TAC [Total Allowable Catch] of southern bluefin tuna to ensure that all members can benefit from stock recovery within an acceptable timeframe with high reliability," she affirmed.

Greenpeace agrees -- and fears the meeting’s outcome will be dire.

"We're not encouraged about the signs. We expect that the Southern Bluefin Tuna Commission is likely to increase the quota against all the scientific evidence, so our confidence is a little bit low at the moment," said Nathaniel Pelle of the NGO, ABC Radio Australia News reports.

And Japan is surprisingly suspicious of the good news.

“We are feeling uneasy about the ESC's (scientific committee's) optimistic outcome," said Kenji Kagawa, head of the Japan delegation to the CCSBT. “I am starting to wonder whether they might be some serious problems with the current model for projections ... or the stock assessment methodology ... or the Bali procedure which is based on the current model.”


Details are expected to be disclosed at the annual CCSBT meeting in October.

Related articles:

-
Govt lists southern bluefin tuna as threatened 
-
Increased cuts for southern bluefin tuna

By Natalia Real
[email protected]
www.fis.com


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