TRAFFIC raises concerns over outcomes of Southern Bluefin Tuna meeting
Adelaide, Australia, 25th October 2013—Government representatives and fisheries management authorities meeting last week in Adelaide have failed to clarify either the long-term targets for stocks of Southern Bluefin Tuna, nor the level of penalties imposed on countries catching more than their allocated quotas of the threatened fish species.
The annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) provides an opportunity for governments to set annual quotas for Southern Bluefin Tuna catches throughout their range, taking into account current and predicted stock assessments and also to agree on measures that regulate fishing operations on the high seas.
The Commission had previously agreed to increase the total allowable catch (TAC) of Southern Bluefin from the current 10949 t to 12449 t in 2014 and following this week’s meeting, have agreed also to increase this figure to 14647 t in 2015. The figure will remain at this level for 2016 and 2017, depending on the outcomes of a further stock assessment.
The increases were largely on the back of new research, which found that stocks of the tuna species are not as severely depleted as previously believed. However, the levels are still below the Commission’s interim target of rebuilding stocks to 20% of unfished levels by 2035.
TRAFFIC expressed concern that a long term vision for rebuilding the stock was still awaited from the Commission.
“A precautionary long-term vision for the stock might have seen less willingness to increase the total allowable catch for the Southern Bluefin so quickly,” said Glenn Sant, TRAFFIC’s Fisheries Progamme Leader.
The approved catches also included an increase in Japan’s national tuna quota.
In 2006, the Commission had noted the substantial over-catch of Southern Bluefin Tuna by Japan over a period of years—meaning the nation had been engaged in illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing. In response, the Commission reduced Japan’s national quota in subsequent years.
However, as TRAFFIC made clear at the meeting, the reduction over the past seven years amounted to only around 10% of the estimated IUU over-catch.
“TRAFFIC is concerned by the precedent this may set for penalties imposed for IUU fishing,” said Sant.
“Fisheries bodies setting national fishing quotas must ensure their quotas are adhered to and not allow those who disregard them to be let off the hook lightly.”
“Does the Commission consider an effective overall 10% IUU payback penalty for years of over-catch adequate punishment? If so, it hardly sends a strong deterrent message for countries not to catch more than their annual quota.”
A further cause for concern from the meeting was the Commission’s failure to adopt legally binding measures to restrict the incidental bycatch of species impacted by fishing operations.
“The CCSBT could have ensured strong measures were in place to reduce the plight of threatened seabirds, sharks and marine turtles inadvertently impacted by this tuna fishery, but as long as the use of bycatch mitigation remains voluntary and not mandatory, these species are needlessly at risk,” said Sant.
TRAFFIC and WWF have been closely working together on Southern Bluefin Tuna issues and attending CCSBT meetings to discuss the species’s management for some 20 years. The two organizations presented a joint opening statement to the latest meeting.