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Southern bluefin tuna access guarantees sought

THE Victorian Government is seeking assurance from the Commonwealth that Victoria’s anglers and dependent businesses will be guaranteed long term access to southern bluefin tuna.

The southern bluefin tuna fishery is now a significant resource for rec fishers, charter operators and tourism operators in southwest Victoria and a commercial fishery based in Port Lincoln in South Australia.

The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) is currently in discussions with the Commonwealth over future resource sharing arrangements for southern bluefin tuna which the Victorian Government expects to result in guaranteed long term access for the recreational sector.

Charter boat operators have invested significantly around the SBT fishery in recent years and assurancea are being sought that such financial commitment will be respected and secured.

In order to quantify the importance of recreational southern bluefin tuna fishing, the Victorian Government, in conjunction with Glenelg Shire, has recently commissioned Deloitte Access Economics to undertake a study into the contribution it has made to Portland and the broader southwest Victorian economy.

The study follows a survey released by VIC DPI that estimates last year’s recreational harvest of southern bluefin tuna by anglers fishing from trailer boats off the southwest Victorian coast to be around 19,700 fish, equivalent to 240 tonnes, with a further 6,900 fish caught and released. The 240 tonne harvest is equivalent to 6 per cent of Australia’s commercial catch allocation in 2011.

Some additional survey work shows that the total recreational catch of southern bluefin tuna is likely to be considerably higher, with at least another 594 tuna caught by anglers operating from boats that return to moorings in Portland Harbour.

The survey was funded by recreational fishing licence fees and is the first study of its kind to quantify the recreational southern bluefin tuna catch. It involved interviewing more than 1900 anglers at Apollo Bay, Warrnambool, Port Fairy and Portland boat ramps.

It found recreational anglers undertook more than 6,200 trailer boat trips in Victorian waters in pursuit of southern bluefin tuna, with 83 per cent of those from Portland.

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