At a meeting in South Korea, the bluefin industry agreed to an annual cut in quotas by 20 per cent, with the biggest fisher of the species, Australia, to reduce its catch by 30 per cent.
The Pacific says it is likely some of the fleets involved in catching bluefin tuna will now try and move into the Pacific to target yellowfin and big eye. But Pacific fisheries have already reduced the allowable annual catch of both species.
Presenter: Pacific Correspondent Campbell Cooney
Speaker: Executive Officer of the Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, Andrew Wright; Port Lincoln's mayor Peter Davis
COONEY: The decision made by the world's Bluefin tuna fishing industry in Korea to cut catch quotas by 20 per cent does not impact on Pacific tuna fisheries directly which target the Yellowfin and Big Eye species. But those involved in the Pacific Tuna industry are watching with interest and the Executive Director of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, Drew Wright, says the planned reduction in the Blue Eye catch comes as no surprise.
WRIGHT: What's taking place in the Altantic and also now in the Southern Indian Ocean south of Australia and South Pacific for Southern Bluefin Tuna is incredibly relevant to what all tuna regional fisheries management organisations have got on their agenda at the moment Campbell. As you know, in the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission last year, we agreed to certain objective of reducing fishing mortality on Big Eye Tuna by 30 per cent over the next three years. It's demonstrating that unless these regional fisheries organisations do to take a more proactive and meaningful role in the management of the resources they are responsible for, then it is quite possible as is happening with Atlantic Bluefin...that the responsibilities for the administration of those stocks will be handed to another body.
COONEY: That 20 per cent cut that was handed down in Korea. Did it surprise you the size of it?
WRIGHT: No, because for many years there has been concern about the ability of Southern Bluefin Tuna to sustain the current level of fishing, there's scientific advice, there's consistently been a need for reduction of fishing mortality, so that does not surprise me at all.
COONEY: Australia is the world's biggest fisher of Southern Bluefin Tuna and as part of the 20 per cent worldwide reduction, it's quota has been cut by 30 per cent.
The main fishing fleet is based in Port Lincoln in South Australia, and news of the quota cut is not being well received.
Port Lincoln's Mayor, Peter Davis, has questioned the science behind the decision.
DAVIS: As far as we're concerned, Southern Bluefin Tuna is clearly recovering. Fish sizes are, the average fish weight is increasing per year, schools are increasing, things that all give the lie to the stock being under threat. I think it would be most appropriate for the "secret scientific report" to be made public, so that other than bureaucrats and red eyed greenies can scrutinise the evidence upon which this reduction has been imposed.
COONEY: But while Mr Davis might think the science is questionable, the group which represents the industry, the Australian Tuna Association, agreed to the 20 per cent cut. But with millions of dollars invested in fishing fleets, will fishers look to other tuna fisheries?
Drew Wright from the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission says it's up to those involved in the Pacific tuna industry to police their own patch.
WRIGHT: Fishermen have got to feed their families and maintain employment and meet their payments and things like that. So it does there is two possibilities. One is that governments will become involved in retiring the fleets by some sort of buy back programs to actually remove active participants in the fishery and the other possibility is that there will be an increase in illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing. IEU fishing is prevalent in global fisheries worldwide and Western Central Pacific Fisheries Convention area is faced with high levels of IEU fishing probably and I say probably, because IEU fishing by its very nature is very hard to categorise and document and get a meaningful quantity value on and by cutting the mortality in the Southern Bluefin Tuna industry, then obviously there is going to be some displacement of effort and that effort will either relocate elsewhere and in a legitimate sense that opportunities are extremely limited. Some of those vessels may become IEU operators.
COONEY: And Mr Wright has also confirmed the eight Pacific Island nations who are participants in the Nauru agreement, whose economic zones cover the majority of the Pacific tuna fisheries are to open their own Secretariat to be based in the Marshall Islands to manage issues within their fishery.
WRIGHT: They want to promote the economic returns that the eight members of the PNA group secure from the Central Western Pacific Tuna industry and I think they can do it better with a dedicated office set up a little bit separate from as you say, it does not mean that the PNA countries will disengage from FFA. They will still maintain a presence in the FFA processes.