Severe warning for our fishing future
Australia’s marine fish populations continue to be overexploited and Government sustainability guidelines have not halted the increasing number of overfished species. The Commonwealth fisheries status report published by the Bureau of Rural Sciences yesterday confirmed that the number of overfished species has increased from 17 to 24, and that the most severely overfished species still have no prospect of recovery.
“This report confirms that the health of our marine environment is still under threat from overfishing. Government has the capacity to act appropriately by reducing fishing effort and protecting overfished and endangered species, but as yet they have not taken on the powerful fishing industry and implemented these measures” said Humane Society International (HSI) Director Michael Kennedy.
Southern bluefin tuna (SBT), the most lucrative catch in Commonwealth fisheries and the subject of a high-profile international meeting in Japan last week, has been overfished since 1992. The new report reaches exactly the same conclusion as the 2001 and 2004 reports - that “current catches severely limit the likelihood of rebuilding”. Despite this severe warning over 6 years, the fishery was still accredited as sustainable last year.
Eastern gemfish is provisionally listed as a threatened species in New South Wales, and is awaiting the Minister’s decision (after three years of extensions) for Commonwealth protection. Its quota has however remained constant since 2003 with the result that it continues to be overfished. Like SBT, the new report repeats the 2004 finding, that it shows “no signs of recovery”. Like SBT, this fishery was recently accredited as sustainable – and it is the same fishery as oversees the overfishing of orange roughy as well as high levels of bycatch of seabirds and seals and the bycatch of critically endangered gulper sharks.
“Orange roughy and southern bluefin tuna have both been assessed by the federal Threatened Species Scientific Committee as fulfilling the criteria for protection as endangered species, yet the Government has not listed them and they continue to be overfished,” added Michael Kennedy. “This report reveals the Government’s claims of sustainable fisheries management are a sham. One population of orange roughy is assessed as overfished for the first time, while all other populations continue to be overfished – and yet the fishery has just been given its accreditation as a sustainable Wildlife Trade Operation.
“If the Government followed its own guidelines and directions there would not be a problem. The problem arises because the fishing lobby is strong enough to sway Government decision-making.”