Historic Agreement Among Major Tuna Fishing Nations
13 October 2003
A meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) in Christchurch last week has been described by the Chair of the meeting and Ministry of Fisheries Deputy Chief Executive, Stan Crothers as highly successful and an important step forward in international fisheries management.
For the first time since 1997, the Commission has formally agreed to limit the total catch of southern bluefin tuna (SBT) by member countries. The Commission agreed that 14,030 tonnes of SBT would be taken for the 2003/04 fishing year. Allocation of this catch among the Commission's five members were also agreed as follows: Australia 5,265 tonnes; Fishing Entity of Taiwan 1,140 tonnes; Japan 6,065 tonnes; New Zealand, 420 tonnes; and Republic of Korea, 1,140 tonnes.
A global allocation of 900 tonnes was set for non-member countries that have agreed to cooperate with the Commission and abide by its conservation and management rules. Both the Philippines and Indonesia attended the Christchurch conference as observers and may formalise their relationship with the Commission under a new framework establishing the status of cooperating non-member.
Establishing a total allowable catch (TAC) and its allocation amongst the Commission members is a key responsibility of CCSBT whose goal is to achieve conservation and optimal utilisation of this highly valued tuna species. Recent meetings of the Commission have consistently failed to reach agreement on how much SBT members could catch despite scientific advice that the stock was at historically low levels.
Another major achievement of this year's Commission meeting has been agreement on tough new measures to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing, said Mr Crothers. The Commission confirmed its strong commitment to eliminating IUU fishing and established a CCSBT "positive list" of vessels over 24 metres in length authorised to fish for southern bluefin tuna.
"Demonstrating to the international community that the Commission is an effective regional fisheries management organisation may be our best weapon to combat IUU fishing," said Mr Crothers. "The fact that we can all work cooperatively and manage this fishery effectively and on a credible scientific basis sends a strong message to those who may seek to undermine our management objectives."
The agreements reached in Christchurch represent an historic breakthrough and laid the foundations for CCSBT to become a world-leading fisheries organisation, said Mr Crothers. The feeling throughout the week had been extremely positive and raised expectations that the next meeting, to be held in the Republic of Korea in October 2004, would achieve similar outcomes.