That is the conclusion of scientists meeting in Busan, in South Korea, to examine the latest data on the world's biggest fishery.
The scientific committee of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission provides the evidence which helps the fishing and resource-owning nations decide how to manage the stocks.
Jemima Garrett asked the Commission's Executive Director, Glenn Hurry, why the stocks are down this year.
Presenter: Jemima Garrett
Speakers: Glenn Hurry, Executive Director, Central and Western Pacific Fisheries Commission
HURRY: It is a good question, Jemima. The main indicators that came out of this meeting was that it is probably on the back of the la Nina events that have been across the Northern Pacific for the last couple of years that have an impact on the recruitment of these key stocks. So that is one explanation for it. The other explanation for it, possibly, is that we are on a fished down stage on these fisheries and we've probably taken the peak off our catch and the catches from now on will stay at a slightly lower level probably more like 2 million tonnes, than 2.4 million tonnes.
GARRETT: One of the crucial species is Southern Albacore Tuna. What is the latest on that?
HURRY: The stock assessment on Southern Albacore this year, and we did a full assessment, was that it wasn't overfished and it wasn't suffering from overfishing but one of the concerns that the scientists had it its recommendation to the managers are that there is a lot more capacity coming into this fishery from fleets from mainland China and Chinese Taipei and this increased activity may well have a bearing on the stock in the future. So that is one of the key issues that we will need to take into the annual meeting in December this year.
GARRETT: Scientists from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community say that specific catch limits are needed on Southern Albacore. Why wasn't that advice heeded?
HURRY: It will be. This year we were a bit unlucky. Our annual meeting for last year was supposed to be in Palau, in December, and the Palau power station and we had to bring our meeting through to Guam, in March, so we had a delayed meeting. And when we had the delayed meeting we had a huge agenda and we never got to deal with some of the South pacific Albacore issues. But this year, it is one of the top issues on the agenda to be dealt with so I am fairly positive we will get a result on southern Albacore this year.
GARRETT: The key species in the tropical areas are bigeye tuna, skipjack and yellowfin. What is the latest on that?
HURRY: Well, pretty positive. We didn't do assessments on any of those 3 species this year. We did most of them last year. But the indicators are that bigeye is reasonably stable at around 151,000 tonnes across the fishery. Skipjack is down a bit. It is down about 100,000 tonnes to about 1.5 million tonnes and yellowfin is down to about 448,000. But the are all
sorry bigeye needs a reduction of about probably 25-30% from its current level of fishing. And that is one of the other key issues for this meeting in December. It is how you actually reduce the catch on bigeye. But the other two, based on the science we've got at the moment, look pretty good.
GARRETT: These meetings bring together countries with very different interests: the big fishing countries that tend to think there is less need for conservation measures and the Pacific countries that want to make sure that this key resource is still there in the future. What were the key points of contention at the meeting?
HURRY: Not a lot of contention at this one, Jemima. We try and let scientists be scientists at this meeting and there is not a lot of the managers who come along. So we let the scientists come in and science in the Commission is guided by science that is undertaken independently by the south Pacific community in New Caledonia, who have a very good Oceanic Fisheries Program. So, while there is quite a bit of debate about what the indicators mean or what the model is actually showing you -'Have you thought about this?' Have you done this?' . there wasn't a lot of contention about where the species actually sat in the mix, so a reasonably good outcome in terms of science. I suppose if there was a debate or points of contention it was more over the 2 shark species that we did assessments on this year - silkies and whitetips - where people argued if we actually had enough data to do the assessments properly and whether the results we were getting were really indicative of where the fisheries were at.
GARRETT: The other big issue was South Pacific Striped Marlin. What was the thinking on that?
HURRY: Yeah, it is a while since we have done an assessment on South Pacific Striped Marlin and, as you will be aware, it is a key recreational species as well as a commercial species and the assessment result is, and the recommendation to the managers will be, that it is fully exploited and it may be overfished. So there is a species that we are going to have to look at reducing the catch on, as we move forward into the future.