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Wildlife Trade Specialists

Published 23rd October 2007

No progress in protecting Southern Bluefin Tuna—TRAFFIC/WWF

Canberra, Australia, 23 October 2007—The Commission for Convention for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) concluded its 14th meeting, but failed to take any significant action to safeguard the fish stocks and other marine life it was established to manage and conserve says TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network and WWF.


Southern bluefin tuna: a lack of action against overharvesting is driving the species to extinction © WWF-Canon / Michel GUNTHER

“The Commission was unable to make any significant progress in preventing the overharvesting of southern bluefin tuna that is driving the species further towards extinction,” said Glenn Sant, TRAFFIC’s Global Marine Programme Leader. 

“The meeting became embroiled in discussions that went round and round in circles getting nowhere,” said Sant. 

The southern bluefin tuna stock is at historically low levels with less than 10 per cent of the virgin stock left. 

Reviews conducted by the Commission have shown massive over catch by a member, yet Japan has continued to ensure that any finger pointing to those responsible is locked up in confidentiality. A WWF report released in advance of the meeting was also highly critical of the way the Commission has routinely failed to deal with species incidentally killed during the fisheries operations. 

“The Commission also failed to agree on anything related to minimising bycatch of albatrosses, petrels, sharks and marine turtles,” said Lorainne Hitch, WWF spokesperson for Sustainable Fisheries.

“They were unable to agree on even the most fundamental aspects of bycatch management such as data collection. 

“It is unacceptable that the unregulated and unsustainable catch of these species can be allowed to continue because Japan does not consider measures to reduce bycatch can be made binding by CCSBT. It’s just a blocking tactic so as not to have to act,” she added. 

For the first time non-governmental organisation (NGO) observers were allowed in to witness the CCBST proceedings. 

“Allowing NGO observers was a positive step in lifting the veil of secrecy surrounding southern bluefin tuna management,” said Sant, adding that is was hard to believe it had taken 14 years to come about.

“At least now everyone can see what the problems are and who is failing to take action to address them.”

According to TRAFFIC and WWF, the broader conservation community should be seeking action from government leaders and industry to tackle overfishing and marine bycatch, and to ensure the sustainability of southern bluefin tuna stocks. 


Notes:

* The full report of the CCSBT can be found at http://www.ccsbt.org/docs/pdf/meeting_reports/ccsbt_14/report_of_CCSBT14.pdf
 The section on the management of ecologically related species can be found starting on page 28.
* According to IUCN-The World Conservation Union’s Red List, all 22 species of albatross are threatened with extinction, largely as a result of bycatch from longline fishing activities. Information on the distribution of threatened seabird species from the Global Procellariiform Tracking Database shows a 67% overlap with CCSBT fishing effort.
* The report Behind the facade: A decade of inaction on non-target species in the southern bluefin tuna fisheries can be found on http://www.panda.org/about_wwf/what_we_do/marine/index.cfm?uNewsID=115601
* Members and Cooperating Non-members of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) include Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Republic of Korea, European Community and South Africa. Indonesia and Philippines participate as observers. CCSBT held its annual meeting in Canberra from October 16-19. 
* Southern bluefin tuna (SBT), a migratory fish which has its spawning grounds south-west of Indonesia and is caught mainly in the southern waters of the Indian Ocean. More than 60 per cent of the southern bluefin tuna catch has been taken by the longline fleets of Japan, New Zealand, Korea and Taiwan. Australia takes around 40% of the catch by purse seine. Indonesia, a non-member of the Commission, also takes significant quantities of SBT by longline on the spawning grounds. Seabirds, notably albatrosses, marine turtles and sharks are snared and often drown on the hooks set by longline fleets. 
* The CCSBT relies on ad hoc reporting of bycatch data by its members. Data is therefore piecemeal and inconsistent (if reported at all). The publicly available data for seabirds indicates that thousands of seabirds are killed annually by SBT longliners. However the absence of other data precludes any meaningful assessment of the nature and extent of bycatch of other species by these fleets. 
* The southern bluefin tuna is considered Critically Endangered and in danger of global extinction.