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Cheers And Protests Over Increased Southern Bluefin Quota

Increased quotas for Southern bluefin announced last week were received with cheers by the fishing industry but have riled major conservation groups. The Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna agreed a total quota rise of one third over a three-year period, from 9,449 tons to 12,449 tons.

The conclusion of the commission was made during its annual meeting in Adelaide, South Australia. The recent stock assessments show a dramatic increase in the number of juvenile fish, and sustained strength in the population of older fish, according to the Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Association. “We are celebrating the recovery of the stock,” the association’s chief executive, Brian Jeffriess, said.

Environmental groups Greenpeace and the Australian Marine Conservation Society strongly oppose the decision and call for a “zero catch” as the only way to ensure survival of the over exploited species.

Nathaniel Pelle, Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner said: “Quotas for Southern bluefin tuna have been raised for the third year in a row. This is despite official stock assessments showing that over 90 per cent of the global population has already been fished.”

Animal rights charity, Humane Society International, also opposes the decision and says that the Australian tuna industry must accept some responsibility for what it predicts will be a rise in the number of deaths of albatross from longline fishing. The bird seeks bait on the hooks.

Despite stocks being less than five percent of their original size, fishermen say the lifting of the bluefin tuna quota from its all time low acts as proof that the stock of the species is somewhat recovering.

Australia has the largest quota by weight for Southern bluefin tuna and is the country’s largest single aquaculture sector, exporting USD 153 million in 2012-2013. Pam Allen from the Australian Marine Conservation Society said: “Current stock assessments show that this is already a fishery in collapse. The simple truth is we need to leave the Southern bluefin tuna well alone for a while so that stocks can recover as quickly as possible”

The commission’s decision will mean that next year, fishers based at Port Lincoln, South Australia, will be able to take 4,528 tons of bluefin, up around 500 tons on this year. The quota will slowly rise over the following two years. The commission also agreed to impose a sophisticated management scheme to keep a regular check on the sustainability of the catch – a world first for any tuna fishery.