Burke gives Southern bluefin tuna “protection” listing

The southern bluefin tuna is to receive national protection, after Australia’s federal environment minister Tony Burke listed the species under national environment law.

News of the listing came via a press release issued this week in which the minister outlined at length the fact the listing will not affect current commercial fishing practices for southern bluefin tuna, while seemingly ignoring the value of the species to the recreational fishing sector. (Under the new protection listing, rec fishing laws relating to SBTs remain unchanged).

“I have taken the advice of the independent Threatened Species Scientific Committee and listed southern bluefin tuna under the category it was nominated for—conservation dependent, Burke said.

“The species has declined in the past, and while ongoing improvements in management measures are helping to stabilise the population, the breeding population is still considered to be less than eight per cent of unfished levels.

“This listing will not prevent or restrict fishing or create additional regulatory burden on the industry. Fishing can continue under existing arrangements but it will now be a legal requirement that the species remain under a plan of management that includes actions to stop its decline and support its long?term recovery.

“Australia’s tuna fishers are already working towards sustainable management, such a plan is already in place.”

The environment minister said that Australia was also involved with the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna – the group of countries that sets global southern bluefin tuna catch levels and oversees the global management of the species.

“Listing the southern bluefin tuna in a category that allows ongoing sustainable fishing ensures Australia continues to be an important voice for its international management and conservation,” Burke said.

“Because of its highly migratory nature, a global management strategy is the only way to help the recovery of southern bluefin tuna. A ban on southern bluefin tuna fishing in Australia would not necessarily result in a reduction of global catch, as the global catch limit may not change.”

Burke said that as a member nation of the international commission, Australia supported recent management measures the commission put in place, including an agreement to develop a strategy to rebuild the population, and to reduce the global catch of southern bluefin tuna by 20 per cent over the 2010 and 2011 seasons.

Fisho contacted minister Burke’s office today to ask why no reference was made to the value of SBT to the rec fishing sector, considering the species is the mainstay of the Victorian and Tasmanian gamefishing industries.

A spokesperson from the minister’s office told Fisho this week’s announcement, “is about fishing, both commercial and recreational, neither are affected. This listing will not prevent or restrict fishing or create additional regulatory burden on the industry.”

Independent fisheries consultant Len Olyott says it is still too early to work out the implications of the SBT protection listing for rec fishos.

“A formal management plan is needed for the species which includes how the species is used. This needs to be approved by the Dept of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.

“The commercial fishery is a Commonwealth Fishery so already has a management plan in place but the recreational fishery is under the various state jurisdictions where southern bluefin are caught. There is likely to be a need for each jurisdiction to develop a management plan for SBT. The regulations vary from state to state and NSW has already begun to review its fishery management options for SBT.”

Olyott concluded with an ominous warning that, “With limited resourcing, it is almost inevitable that recreational fishers are worse off as they tend to get “outgunned” by well resourced anti-fishing movements who can pay for expert consultants to develop their submissions and attend meetings on their behalf.”

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