Call for bigeye tuna recovery plan

AT a meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) Scientific Committee in the Marshall Islands the failure of tuna fishing nations to protect the bigeye tuna fishery has been highlighted.

According to conservation group Greenpeace, relentless fishing pressure by the world’s purse seine fleets is having a devastating effect on the species which is dramatically dwindling in numbers. 

“Greenpeace, along with scientists, have been raising the alarm about bigeye tuna since 2006. Now the species is down to just 16 per cent of its original population size – a limit the Commission itself says is an unacceptable risk and which would trigger a halt to fishing if it was an Australian managed stock,” said Greenpeace Australia Pacific Oceans Campaigner, Nathaniel Pelle

“A record number of giant purse seine vessels from the EU, Asia and US, spent a record number of days at sea and caught a record haul of tuna – it doesn’t take a genius to work out this out-of-control fleet, reliant on destructive fish aggregating devices (FADs), is the main culprit.”

Bigeye tuna, is a highly-prized sashimi tuna targeted by long line vessels including those operating in Australia’s Eastern Tuna and Billfish fishery.

“The Bigeye stock is not just being threatened; it’s also being squandered by the purse seine fleet. On the east coast of Australia, we rely on catching mature bigeye that have had a chance to breed and which fetch top dollar at fish markets, the overcatch by the purse seine fleet is a waste of good fish that also undermines our efforts at improved management,” said Pavo Walker, owner of Mooloolaba tuna fishing company Walker Seafoods, the largest fishing company on Australia’s east coast.

The Australian east coast tuna fishery is managed with strict quotas and restrictions on the types of fishing gears in order to reduce bycatch, but is based on the same stocks of tuna as the Pacific tuna fishery.

The Greenpeace delegation at the WCPFC science committee meeting is demanding:

  • A recovery plan for bigeye tuna that includes a full ban on FAD use, cuts to total longline effort, and cuts to purse seine capacity
  • Urgent precautionary advice for the conservation and management of sharks
  • The final complete set of limit reference points for all species caught in the WCPFC and interim target reference points for all tuna and billfish species.

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