INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION AIMS TO CONSERVE VALUABLE TUNA FISHERY
6 October 2003 News release
The meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) in Christchurch this week (7 to 10 October) is aiming to make further progress towards the sustainable utilisation of one of the world's most valuable tuna fisheries.
Southern bluefin tuna is a high value species and is fetching prices of up to $50 per kilogram on the Japanese market. Worldwide the fishery is estimated to be worth well over one billion dollars a year.
CCSBT member countries (New Zealand, Australia, Japan, The Republic of Korea, and Taiwan) catch around 14,000 tonnes of southern bluefin tuna globally each year. This includes New Zealand's share of 420 tonnes, which generates over $11 million a year in exports.
Chair of the Christchurch meeting, Ministry of Fisheries Deputy CEO Stan Crothers said that it has been apparent since the mid 1980s that steps had to be taken to limit catches of southern bluefin tuna to ensure the efficient management of the fishery. The main nations fishing SBT at the time, Australia, Japan and New Zealand began to apply strict quotas to their fishing fleets from 1985 as a management measure to allow the stock to rebuild. This arrangement was formalised in 1994 when the Convention for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna came into force. The Republic of Korea and the fishing entity of Taiwan have since joined.
"The Christchurch meeting offers a great opportunity for members to resolve some important management issues with this fishery," said Mr Crothers. "These include setting a total allowable catch for southern bluefin tuna for the first time since 1997." Mr Crothers said that although the five members have voluntarily restricted catches at existing levels in recent years, no binding decision had been made on the share of the total allowable catch or allocation amongst CCSBT members.
A world leading procedure for setting catch limits will also be discussed in Christchurch. Independent scientists have developed the new scientifically-based approach which would allow the Commission to review its progress towards rebuilding the southern bluefin tuna stock while allowing sustainable fishing.
Another significant focus for the meeting will be how the Commission engages with non-member countries that fish for southern bluefin tuna. It is estimated that catch from these states could be as much as 2,500 tonnes annually.
"It is essential that the Commission includes all those who fish for southern bluefin," Mr Crothers said. "We all need to play by the same rules to ensure that the good work of the CCSBT members in restricting their catches and agreeing strict conservation rules is not undermined. "
This unregulated fishing activity is part of the wider problem of illegal, unreported and unregulated or IUU fishing that has plagued world fisheries. "This issue received world-wide publicity recently when an Australian fisheries patrol vessel chased a pirate fishing vessel (alleged to have caught the highly prized toothfish) through the Southern Ocean all the way to South Africa," said Mr Crothers. "There is no doubt that good governance structures provided by international co-operation and organisations such as CCSBT provide one of the best ways of avoiding such incidents in the future."
For further information please contact:
Stan Crothers, Chair of Christchurch meeting tel. 021 466 140; or
Alan Meek, Communications Manager, Ministry of Fisheries, tel. 021 822 588