Tuna talks end well for New Zealand
Southern bluefin tuna talks in Japan last week ended well both for the future of the tuna fishery and for New Zealand fishers, says Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton.
“The international community has made some tough decisions that will hopefully allow the southern bluefin tuna fishery to rebuild," Jim Anderton said today in Wellington.
“We went into these talks wanting urgent action - the fishery just couldn’t handle the combined levels of legal and illegal catch.
“We’ve now got that. The Commission has agreed to reduce world catch limits for southern bluefin tuna, and tightened catch reporting systems to cut down on illegal take.
“This will hopefully set southern bluefin tuna on the long road to recovery.”
New Zealand’s Commissioner at the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna, Stan Crothers, says this meeting achieved in one week what other international fisheries organisations have taken years to grapple with.
He says Commission members agreed to reduce the world’s Total Allowable Catch from 14,800 to 11,800 tonnes; and a number of countries agreed to further voluntary actions that would take the world’s legal catch below 11,000 tonnes in the next fishing year.
In addition, Commission members agreed to a series of compliance measures to reduce the huge level of illegal catch in the fishery (some estimates put this as high as 10,000 tonnes/year). These include stricter regulations around catch documentation and shipment, bringing in a vessel monitoring system, and strengthening the observer programme.
“Recent reports discussed by the Commission identified serious deficiencies in catch reporting within Japan’s tuna markets, and in Australia’s tuna farming operations,” says Mr Crothers.
“In response to this, Japan has moved very quickly to halve its catch, and to tighten monitoring and compliance systems in their domestic market. Meanwhile, the Australians have committed to spending $1.5 - $2 million on research into tightening their tuna farm monitoring systems.”
As well as these sustainability measures, New Zealand has achieved recognition of its rights to a 1000-tonne allocation of the world southern bluefin tuna catch.
The Commission has agreed to increase New Zealand’s allocation from its current 420 tonnes, to 1000 tonnes in 2010. This tonnage is based on New Zealand’s rights as a coastal state in the fishery. However, Jim Anderton says New Zealand would only consider fishing at this new level when the fish stock improves significantly.