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27 October 2009 - Tuna and albatross catches still too high      

Tuna and albatross catches still too high

27 October 2009                                        
                                                           

The Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna Catches has failed to do enough to rescue both the tuna and the albatross endangered by its fishery says conservation organisation Humane Society International (HSI).

Last week the Commission managed to agree to a 20% reduction in the global Total Allowable Catch for southern bluefin tuna (SBT) but failed to agree to measures to reduce the thousands of albatross that drown on longlines used to catch the tuna.

“The 20% reduction in SBT quota is insufficient to give the species a chance to recover and still means the likely death of 10,700 albatross each year”, said Nicola Beynon, HSI Senior Program Manager.

The Scientific Committee to the Commission has estimated the SBT population is at a mere 3-8% of its pre-exploitation biomass and only a zero quota would give the species a decent chance to recover. Australia’s participation in the fishery goes against domestic policy which would usually require suspension of fishing once a population is reduced below 20% of its pre-exploitation biomass. HSI and other conservation organisations had pushed for the Commission to suspend the global catch until it can resume on an ecologically sustainable basis.

Sadly, with fraught negotiations over tuna quota, the Commission neglected to agree to new measures to stop the albatross death toll it is responsible for. “HSI calculates the 20% reduction in SBT fishing will still lead to 10,700 seabirds being killed every year, 4,500 by the Japanese longline fleets alone, and the majority will be endangered albatross and petrels”, said Ms Beynon.

Of the SBT allocated to Australia very little is caught on longlines, which benefits seabirds, therefore HSI would have expected stronger leadership from Australia to negotiate binding measures to reduce seabird deaths on the longlines. Australia even faced criticism from Japan for its minimal efforts on seabirds at CCSBT this year.

HSI has nominated SBT for protection as a threatened species under Australian law.





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