Published 23 October 2009


Southern Bluefin quota cuts could be “too little, too late”

Jeju Island, South Korea, 23rd October 2009—A 20 percent cut in the Southern Bluefin Tuna take could still be too little, too late for the species which is on the brink of collapse, WWF and the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC warned today.

Southern Bluefin Tuna on sale in Tokyo: even in a best case scenario, it will take years for stock levels to recover © Michel Gunther / WWF-Canon  

Speaking at the conclusion of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin (CCSBT) Tuna meeting in Jeju Island, South Korea, TRAFFIC’s Global Marine Programme Leader Glenn Sant said that even under a best case scenario, the Southern Bluefin Tuna populations would not recover for many years.
“The members agree it is a crisis with the breeding stock being somewhere between three and eight per cent of its original level,” said Sant. 
“A 20 per cent cut is a step towards resolving the terribly low level of Southern Bluefin Tuna stock, with the scientific assessment of the scenario saying there could be recovery, but only after many years.” 
WWF and TRAFFIC had asked for a temporary closure of the fishery, while Australia had requested a 50 percent cut in catches.
On the other side of the world, the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna has been proposed for an international trade ban under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), with WWF also to press a forthcoming meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas for a moratorium on the fishery.

Both fisheries are plagued with illegal and over-fishing.

“Our biggest concern is the need to reduce illegal catches and ensure that members stick to their quotas so that we don’t have some members withdrawing from the bank while others bank recovery for the future,” said Sant. 

“Some members have been burnt by this situation in the past when a member in effect overcaught its quota by some 200,000 tonnes over 20 years, in effect withdrawing all the stock recovery banked by others.”

At the end of two years the members will agree a management procedure that will more effectively advise them on what changes need to be made.

If this cannot be agreed in 2011 the catch will be further reduced to 50% of its current catch and an emergency rule has been agreed that if there are signs recruitment of juvenile fish to the population falls below historical lows the fishery will be shut.

“In theory this is all positive, but with the tuna stock at the lowest level it has ever been fished to, there is concern it may not recover,” said Sant. 

An interview with Sant broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation can be seen here.