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Worsening Weather Conditions Change Australian Fishing On Bluefin Australia, March 14, 12

Tuna fishers have nearly caught their quota for the season despite only being out on the water every one in seven days.

The low number of fishing days has largely been attributed to horrendous weather, which has been worsening for the last three seasons according to the industry.

Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association chief executive officer Brian Jeffriess said the weather conditions meant south easterly winds had been seen for longer periods at higher levels.

“The data suggests this weather pattern was much worse again in 2012,” he said. “Instead of being able to fish the normal one day in four, this was reduced to one in seven days that fishing was possible.”

Despite the weather obstacle, Mr. Jeffriess said some companies had caught their quota allocation, with others expected to finish by the middle of the month.

But Mr. Jeffriess said the delay had set back the farming cycle by some weeks. He said the setback would be “very costly” to the industry.

The location where fishers caught their tuna was also an issue this season and Mr. Jeffriess said the fish had a complete change in movement compared to previous seasons. “The change in movement pattern of the tuna is so great that for the first time we have caught the large majority of the quota south of Kangaroo Island,” he said. “This is over 300 kilometers east of the traditional catching area. The tuna have also largely been caught on sonar, rather than aerial spotted on the surface.”

The sudden change in the tuna's movement will create an issue when it is time for the CSIRO to measure stock numbers, which is an annual occurrence.

“That survey covers the complete Bight area where the tuna have traditionally been every year,” Mr. Jeffriess said. “In 2012, the tuna have been a long way east of the closest area covered by the CSIRO survey.  How this will be assessed is unclear.”