Call for strong measures to save Pacific bluefin tuna fishery after 96 per cent decline in breeding stock

Call for strong measures to save Pacific bluefin tuna fishery after 96 per cent decline in breeding stock

Call for strong measures to save Pacific bluefin tuna fishery after 96 per cent decline in breeding stock

Updated 14 July 2014, 17:17 AEST

WWF calls for catch limits to be halved and strong management measures to preserve stocks.

The Worldwide Fund for Nature is urging Pacific fisheries to immediately halve their catch limits to preserve bluefin tuna stocks for the long-term.

Numbers of Pacific bluefin tuna breeding stock have declined from their unfished levels by more than 96 per cent.

The WWF will submit its recommendations to this week's Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission meeting in Peru, ahead of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting in Samoa in December.

Western Central Pacific Tuna Programme manager Bubba Cook told Pacific Beat there needs to be a long-term bluefin tuna recovery program.

"It includes candidate limits and target reference points and harvest control rules that are clearly well-defined and agreed among the members," he said.

"[These] are mandatory to achieve a determined course of action in response to changes in the stocks status."

Political support needed for strong measures

Mr Cook says Pacific countries must find the political will to put these management measures in place to save the critically-depleted bluefin stocks.

He says a catch documentation system is a standard tool that's used successfully in fisheries around the world but the challenge is getting the political support within the regional fisheries management organisations.

"They're effective when they're implemented and put in place," he said.

"They're very clear, if you have that catch documentation system in place.

"It makes a good accounting of the harvest and it makes it almost a self-sustaining operation.

"It's as simple as plugging numbers in one end and getting an outcome in the other."

Mr Cook says the Pacific's bluefin tuna fishery can only be guaranteed by following the science and halving catch limits.

"We often see the managers don't listen to the scientific recommendations," he said.

"In this case, the Pacific bluefin is a critically important stock for some countries like Japan and Mexico and Korea so there is a difference in dynamic than say, for instance for the skipjack stock which is a critically important resource for the Pacific island nations."

Mr Cook says another major concern is that 90 per cent of the catch are young fish that have not yet reproduced.

"So you're taking all of the stocks out, all of the individuals out that could reproduce before they have an opportunity to reproduce," he said.

"So, like any investment account, if you take out your capital or your principle before it has an opportunity to accrue interest, you're going to drain you account very quickly."

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