SBT quota rise for pros, recs not in equation

THE commission overseeing the commercial fishing for southern bluefin tuna has agreed to raise the quota levels for the species from its lowest ever level.

Meeting in Bali last week, the six-nation Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna said the meeting was the most important in its history.

The commission agreed a total quota rise of one third in the $1 billion fishery over the three-year period, from the current 9449 tonnes to 12,449 tonnes.

According to the Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Association quota increases are justified with stock assessments showing a dramatic increase in numbers of juvenile fish, and sustained strength in the population of older fish.

”We are celebrating the recovery of the stock,” the association’s chief executive, Brian Jeffriess told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Next year, commercial fishers based at Port Lincoln in South Australia, can take 4528 tonnes of bluefin, up around 500 tonnes on this year, a figure that will rise over the following two years.

The commission also agreed to impose a fishery management scheme to keep checks on the sustainability of the catch. Fisheries Minister, Joe Ludwig, said agreement on the scheme was a vital step towards rebuilding the stock.

Conservation groups are understandably not sold on the quota increases. 

Humane Society International said a zero quota was still the best way to protect the fish, and attention paid to the deaths of birds and animals due to longlining was overdue.

While quota increases highlight that the Federal government and commercial fishing interests are aware of the monetary value of the SBT to industry, Fisho bemoans the fact the value of the species to the rec fishing sector and associated communities still appears not worthy of consideration in future management of the species.

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