The Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell has decided not to include the southern bluefin tuna on the threatened species list, according to the news at ABC Online.
The report states that the Minister made the decision on the basis it would not be good for tuna to be listed as threatened despite a recommendation by the Government’s scientific committee to make tuna fishing illegal and that only around 3 per cent of the stocks that existed in 1960 remain. (I would like to see this data – my understanding was that while stocks are low they are not this low.)
Democrats’ environment spokesperson, Senator Andrew Bartlett,has commented, “To just say that it will be detrimental to the survival of the species listed, I think is extraordinary and is a contempt of the law as it stands”.
What I don’t get is how the Great Barrier Reef coral trout fishery that was sustainable gets more and more restrictions placed on it, while the southern tuna fishery which is apparently under pressure is left to operate.
In the case of tuna the Minister has stated, “The future of the industry for communities like Port Lincoln are crucial”. What about coastal Queensland fishing communities?
I have previously commented that southern bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii) is classified as overfished by AFFA. The fishery is shared with Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan, Korea and New Zealand.
The total global catch peaked in 1961 at 81,605 tonnes and was then in general decline for three decades. Since 1990 the total catch has ranged from between 13,231 tonnes (1994) to 19,588 tonnes (1999). Stock assessments suggest that the parental biomass is low but stable and unlikely to recover to target levels unless all countries agree to abide by national allocations as determined by the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna. Australia operates within its allocation, Japan has not agreed to operate within its allocation, and Indonesia does not recognise the Commission.
Maybe the solution is for the Australian government to put pressure on Indonesia and Japan. So why doesn’t Minister Campbell put some efforts in here – rather than jumping up and down over whaling when Minke whales populations (the species the Japanese and Noreweigans want to harvest) are not under threat.
In summary, as I see it, coral trout and minke whales can be sustainably harvested but the Minister opposes whaling and is putting coral trout fishers out of business. The Minister acknowledges problems with the southern bluefin tuna fishery but will do nothing.