Southern Bluefin Tuna talks open with Australia under fire
Humane Society International (HSI) has today expressed concerns that Australia is doing serious damage to its international reputation for good governance by not delivering on its obligations and commitments as a member of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT). The 2014 meeting of the CCSBT got underway today in Auckland, New Zealand, with Australia facing growing criticism on three separate issues – the amount of unreported catch, accurate recording of the commercial catch and the concern amongst other nations that Australia is in fact catching more than its quota of Southern Bluefin Tuna.
“These issues are of major concern to HSI. Given the many years of negotiation on the management procedure, we were hoping by now that the Commission would be focussed on critical issues such as the bycatch of thousands of seabirds, sharks and other animals, killed unnecessarily in this fishery,” said HSI’s Alexia Wellbelove. “Australia’s poor overall performance threatens any further progress on these issues at this year’s meeting.”
For some years, Australia has agreed to report the catch of Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT) by recreational fishers in Australia, mainly from Victoria and Tasmania. However, Australia has consistently failed to estimate and report the recreational catch, instead commissioning a detailed report which won’t provide its recommendations on the way forward until 2015. HSI has called on recreational fishers to report their catches of SBT as a critically endangered and severely depleted stock.
Australia also promised that it would introduce “stereo video monitoring” of the transfer of SBT catches into the tuna farms but is yet to deliver, to the frustration of many nations, leading to the accusation of Australia acting in bad faith. This follows a Federal Government undertaking they would not impose any additional regulatory burden upon tuna farmers, whilst continuing to spend public money on refining the technology so as to look like they are progressing, despite having made it clear that such monitoring will not be introduced. HSI believes it is time for the Australian Government to implement this more accurate recording of catch as soon as possible, as this issue is preventing progress on other important issues at CCSBT.
Last year, Australian tuna farmers caught more than their quota of tuna. Whilst not a serious problem in itself, CCSBT members are required to report ‘over catch’ by a set deadline which Australia missed by six months. There are no penalties for such a breach and Australia has claimed it was ‘an administrative error’ and not intentional – a flimsy excuse given how tightly argued and commercially important this fishery is for Australia.
“This persistent failure by Australia to meet its commitments and obligations is seriously degrading Australia’s international standing not just in CCSBT but in international fisheries and related international fora and processes more broadly,” continued Ms Wellbelove.
“This is a serious problem, particularly after many years of Australia encouraging other countries to improve their governance arrangements and performance. It is now so bad it has become a source of embarrassment that Australia should be subject to sustained criticism by states which are not entirely blameless themselves. Indeed, more and more often, we find ourselves urging other countries to press Australia to lift its game. This is essential if we are to see other issues such as the bycatch of seabirds progress at this meeting,” concluded Ms Wellbelove.