Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna meeting fails to protect tuna, albatrosses
Humane Society International (HSI) came away from the 22nd annual meeting of the Commission for Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (the Commission) held in Yeosu, Republic of Korea this week disappointed that Member countries failed for the fourth consecutive year to agree to a Resolution that would make measures for saving albatrosses killed in their thousands by this fishery mandatory. This Resolution was initially proposed by Australia.
Only Japan refused to agree, leaving the Commission exposed to ongoing criticism for not acting to protect threatened species. Japanese long-liners killed around 4000 albatrosses in 2014, more than all other member nations’ fishing vessels combined. Frustratingly, albatrosses and other seabirds in higher latitudes continue to be poorly protected by poorly designed, implemented and monitored measures adopted by other tuna Commissions focused on tropical waters.
At the meeting, a potential disaster for ensuring recovery of the Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT) which is still at the precariously low population level of just 9% was only averted at the last minute. Member countries Australia and Indonesia and the newly joined EU pledged additional funding to allow continuation of scientific studies essential for setting sustainable catch levels.
HSI is greatly concerned however that as the amount of tuna to be caught increases, so too will the number of albatrosses and other vulnerable bycatch species such as sharks unless binding measures to protect them are adopted, monitored and complied with.
HSI Marine Specialist Alistair Graham said, “2016 will be a crucial year for the Commission as new SBT catch levels are to be set for the period 2018 - 2020 amidst serious uncertainty over the amount of SBT being caught by non-members. Australia did not escape criticism at the meeting over uncertainties surrounding its accounting for commercial fishing catch levels, and in particular for catches by recreational fishers in southern states. Australia was unable to provide a satisfactory explanation for how it was addressing these issues.”
“HSI will be urging the Australian Government to take action to conserve SBT at home as well as on the international stage and to properly record and report both commercial and recreational catches. Additionally, it is important that the Australian Government does not relent in efforts to protect albatrosses, many of which are threatened with extinction primarily as a result of poor control of long-liners in SBT fisheries. Such efforts need to involve both improved control of Australian fishers and greater efforts to get a binding resolution adopted by the CCSBT Commission,” Mr Graham concluded.