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“Australian Bluefin Stocks Soaring Thanks To Strict Quotas”

At 160 kilograms, it was the biggest bluefin tuna Todd Abbott had ever reeled in.

The fish also was lucrative for the 25-year-old from Narooma, selling at auction at the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo for about AUS$ 16,000 two weeks ago.

“It’s the biggest southern bluefin we’ve had [and] personally it’s my best price - it [sold] for 8300 yen per kilo in Japan, about AUS$ 100 per kilo,” he said.

“The most common size overall you’d say is about 40 to 50 kilos. We catch a fair few around 100 kilos, but not many over that,” he said of the bluefin, adding he has caught a 300-kilogram swordfish.

Skipper Todd Abbott of Narooma (center) with brother and sister who were on deck of Fisco when they caught the 160kg bluefin tuna

Mr. Abbott has been skippering Fisco I, his father’s boat, for four years, and these days it is the only commercial long-line boat operating out of Narooma.

He has four crew on deck, including his brother Ryan and occasionally sister Hayley, continuing a family business that has been operating since 1950.

Southern bluefin were scarce when Mr. Abbott was growing up. His father was lucky to get a handful of big bluefin on his lines all season. But fishers are reaping the benefits of the introduction of a strict quota system to help the stocks of the once-endangered fish.

“AFMA (Australian Fisheries Management Authority) has done a great job in the resource management side of things,” he said. “Because we’ve had such strict quotas, the fish have come back unbelievably really - and every year they're getting bigger and better. The bluefin fish has got a very bright future for us.”

Mr. Abbott has to take an observer with him every few trips, which costs up to AUS$ 1100 a day. The quota also means he has to work smarter, holding off on exhausting his quota when prices are low.

“We’ve got 25 tons to catch this year and we’ve still got about 18 tons left [so] we try to work the markets a bit when we can get the best price.”