Australia now leads endangered tuna exploitation
The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) announced today that the Australian national allocation for Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT) for 2007 is set for 5265 tonnes, for the 18th consecutive year.
“Whereas AFMA has recognised in other fisheries that continuous high levels of exploitation lead to a decline in the fish population and therefore requires a reduction in the level of exploitation, this logic appears to be beyond AFMA with regard to SBT” said Michael Kennedy, Humane Society International (HSI) Director. “AFMA’s own guidelines require them to set a targeted catch of zero when the pre-fishing biomass falls below 20%, but SBT is down to only 10% of its pre-fishing biomass, and still the quota remains unchanged since 1989. In the years since then the population has plummeted down to its current precarious level, and still the government does nothing”.
SBT populations are so reduced that it has been scientifically assessed as qualifying for Endangered Species status under Commonwealth law. Despite this finding by the Minister’s Threatened Species Scientific Committee, Environment Minister Ian Campbell denied the listing. “It has not been given the protection it deserves purely for economic reasons – the SBT industry brings in millions of dollars, and money talks louder than extinction to government” added Mr. Kennedy.
The recent meeting of the international fisheries management organisation responsible for the co-ordinated management of SBT stocks, the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT), ended with Japan admitting to an extensive, protracted overcatch, and agreeing to halve its quota for the next five years. “Australia emerged from the meeting extolling itself as a “leader in marine conservation”, yet it has abandoned the guidelines it applies in other fisheries, ignored all ecological indicators, and now proudly enjoys the largest slice of the SBT pie. Australia now takes nearly 50% of the global total of SBT in weight when caught, but because it catches young fish which are then grown in farms, its actual domination of this market is more likely to be around 80% or more”, said Mr. Kennedy. “It is beyond wishful thinking for a country to call itself a “leader in marine conservation” while simultaneously remaining the biggest global exploiter of an endangered fish species”
HSI is gravely concerned for the future of this species and is therefore intending to nominate it for Commonwealth protection, for the second time, in the near future. “We hope that this time the Minister will stand up to the lobbying power of the fishing industry and take the action that is required” added Mr. Kennedy.