Quota cut stuns Australia’s bluefin fishery

By

Neil Ray, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Bangkok

Published on
November 3, 2009

Following last week’s announcement of large cuts in southern bluefin tuna quotas, Southern Australia’s Port Lincoln fishing industry is taking a big hit. There are already reports of skippers and crew members being laid off.

Australia’s southern bluefin tuna quota was reduced by 30 percent in an attempt to protect the resource from overfishing. Worldwide, quotas were cut an average of 20 percent. Australia harvests more southern bluefin tuna than any other country.

Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Association CEO Brian Jeffries said the cuts are unfair.

“The bottom line is there will be a substantial loss of jobs and money,” said Jeffries at a meeting this week.

Jeffries said the association was assured by the Australian government that quota cuts would not apply until December 2010, so tuna fishing companies had recruited staff and prepared vessels for the upcoming fishery.

During the meeting, stakeholders suggested that legal action be taken against the Australian government.

“The government is trying hard to reduce the impact of its sudden reversal of previous assurances, but it is of limited use,” he said.

Australia’s bluefin tuna quota was reduced from 5,265 metric tons to 4,015 metric tons annually. Globally, quotas were cut from an average of 11,810 metric tons to 9,449 metric tons, a decline of 20 percent.

Last week, the World Wildlife Fund said the 20 percent cut was “too little, too late” to save southern bluefin tuna. The environmental organization had called for a temporary closure of the fishery.

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