by Jeni Bone
Tuna fishers say they have had the best start to a season in decades, countering conservationist views that wild stocks are running low. The first load of tuna has been towed into Port Lincoln and weighs 500 tonnes – that’s one sixth of the annual commercial allowance in one hit!
SBT stocks best in decades
Brian Jeffriess CEO at the Australian Tuna Association says it is a surprisingly big catch for so early in the season. 'There's hugely more fish there than people thought there were and certainly than there were in the late 90s. The stock has recovered very, very fast and even as a fishing industry person, I am pleasantly surprised,' he says.
Feedback from fishers is that SBT schools are so large this year they hold thousands of tonnes of tuna.
'It is certainly the best for 10 years,' confirms Jeffriess, adding that the South Australian waters are thriving.
'Wild SBT are all caught 150km to 300km west of Port Lincoln for live farming. They are caught at 17kg and then towed in for 15 days, and grown for six months in nets.'
While international demand, predominantly from Japan, has remainedmuch the same, competitive product has fallen away, attests Jeffriess. 'There is a lack of competitive product from Europe and Mexico. The price is up, and Australian quality is better and better. This industry is only 15 years old, so each year we are honing process and getting better.'
The global quota on tuna is 11,000 tonnes, shared around the world. Since 2006, following action by the organisation governing tuna fishing to prevent illegal overcatching, wild stocks have been coming back bigger and better each year.
'Overcatching was hindering the strength of stock and making it look worse than it should have been,' says Jeffriess. 'When the international organisation discovered there was large scale overcatch, they stopped it and stock has rebounded while the quota has remained virtually the same.'
For more about quotas and fish stocks visit www.afma.gov.au
The Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) is an intergovernmental organisation responsible for the management of southern bluefin tuna throughout its distribution.
The CCSBT's objective is to ensure, through appropriate management, the conservation and optimum utilisation of southern bluefin tuna.
Members of the Extended Commission comprise: Australia, the Fishing Entity of Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea and New Zealand.
Cooperating Non-Members comprise: the Philippines, South Africa and the European Union.
More at www.ccsbt.org