Australia’s bluefin quota up slightly

Australia’s southern bluefin tuna fishing season kicked off this week, amid signs that the species is rebuilding well.

The catch limit for the 2012-2013 season has been increased by 3 percent compared to last season, to 4,698 metric tons (MT) following advice from the International Southern Bluefin Tuna Commission that the stock is improving. The most recent scientific assessment last year showed that at current catch levels the stock will continue rebuilding.

This season the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) will introduce new monitoring arrangements for bluefin catches to measure operators’ catches against quota.

AFMA CEO James Findlay said that it was great to see the stock rebuilding following cooperative efforts by government, the fishing industry, scientists, recreational fishers and environmental organizations.

“We’ve all put a lot of work into this and it’s really positive to see that our cooperation is paying off and we’re seeing real improvements in the tuna populations,” said Findlay.

“In addition there has been some strong collaboration between the various countries that have an interest in southern bluefin tuna; including Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan and Indonesia.”

The Australian southern bluefin tuna industry mostly fish using a purse seine net which encloses a school of fish, and, rather than being brought on board, the fish are held in a large potoon which is towed to waters near Port Lincoln and kept in floating cages anchored to the ocean floor. The tuna are then fed for several months and sold direct to Japanese markets as frozen or chilled fish.

In addition, research into tuna farming practices appears to be paying off with bluefin survival rates increasing. There has been a 10 percent drop in farmed tuna deaths which has already saved the industry close to AUD 20 million over the past twelve months. It is hoped that recent research into offshore farming will lead to further improvements in results.


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