by Michael Fairbairn
Busy Japanese sashimi markets swallow almost 95 per cent of the world’s Southern Bluefin Tuna annually. Fishery stocks are sitting at around five per cent of their original levels, making the Southern Bluefin Tuna endangered and at the risk of complete collapse.
The Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) announced at its annual meeting in October that the quotas of Southern Bluefin Tuna will be raised again this year in accordance with the Commission’s Management Plan.
However, environmental groups Greenpeace and the Australian Marine Conservation Society are concerned about the Commission’s decision.
“Current stock assessments show that this is already a fishery in collapse. The simple truth is we need to leave the Southern Bluefin Tuna well alone for a while so that stocks can recover as quickly as possible,” said Pam Allen, Australian Marine Conservation Society campaign manager.
Nathaniel Pelle, an Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace, believes that a management plan that “will bring back the species as fast, and with as much certainty, as possible” is needed. “The Commission had other models they could have taken, some with much higher probability of return for the species.”
But not everyone sees the quota increase as a bad thing. Matt Daniel, Manager of the Southern Bluefin Tuna fishery at the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, points out that the current management plan of the CCSBT has a 70 per cent probability of rebuilding Southern Bluefin Tuna fishery by 2035.
Ideally the Southern Bluefin Tuna should be left alone to recover however, with Australia holding the largest quota granted by the CCSBT and a strong market in Japan accompanied by growing markets in Spain and Korea, this seems highly unlikely.
Matt Daniel is sceptical of a zero catch approach, pointing out that the CCSBT only has six member countries. “A zero catch policy will just result in illegal fishing; it’s better we are all under the same tent.”
Nathaniel Pelle disagrees, “The idea of increasing fishing just to stop illegal fishing, I think people would agree, doesn’t make sense.”
The quotas allocated by the CCSBT does not make up for all the Southern Bluefin Tuna catch. The fishery takes up huge areas of the southern oceans that are accessed by many countries.
Areas around Java are specifically important as it appears that this is the only mating area for the Southern Bluefin Tuna. “Some of the best fisheries scientists are focusing on this management plan. We should be more concerned with catches of other countries not in the CCSBT,” Matt Daniel says.
The survival of not just the Southern Bluefin Tuna but fisheries as a whole falls heavily on the consumer. Demand for sustainable seafood in Japan has not risen as it has in Australia.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society is currently preparing a new version of the Sustainable Seafood App that was first released three years ago. The app is a pocket version of the Society’s Sustainable Seafood Guide, which was created in response to constant questions by people on what seafood they should buy.
Pam Allen, who is responsible for the app’s current update, says, “A lot of people don’t understand there is a problem; eating is very personal and it’s about getting people to change ingrained habits so that future generations can enjoy seafood.”