Overfishing pushing tuna to the brink

2012-09-08 22:01

Jeju - Global tuna stocks are fast reaching the limits of fishing sustainability, decimated by an absence of comprehensive, science-based catch limits, conservation experts warned on Saturday.

Five of the world's eight tuna species are already classified as threatened or nearly threatened with extinction, according to the Red List of Threatened Species compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

At the IUCN's World Conservation Congress currently underway in South Korea's southern Jeju Island, experts said partial quotas currently in place were inadequate and uninformed.

"The problem is, there is lack of science-based catch limits to ensure effective management and conservation," said Amanda Nickson, Director of Global Tuna Conservation at the Pew Environment Group.

The five Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) that manage the global tuna fishing industry do have some measures in place, including restricting the catch of certain species to the amount caught in a previously defined year.

They also operate "input controls" that, among other things, limit the number of fishing vessels, but Nickson argued these were ineffective as they simply provided an incentive to develop more effective fishing methods.

While acknowledging that scientific data on tuna stocks was "imperfect", Nickson said the UN Fish Stocks Agreement specifically provided for the setting of catch limits if the evidence in favour was compelling enough.

"There is sufficient science available to set precautionary limits," Nickson said.

"If we wait five, 10 years for the science to be perfect, in the case of some species we may not have anything left to manage," she added.

The Atlantic bluefin species, which can live to 40 years old and grow to more than 4m long, is in the gravest danger of disappearing with stocks estimated in some areas to have halved over four decades.

It is so highly prized by sushi-loving Japanese that a 269kg fish went for a record $737 000 (at the time) in January auctions.

"The message is that some tuna species are in bad shape," said Bruce Collette, chair of the IUCN Tuna and Billfish Specialist Group.

"Long living and high value tunas are threatened by over exploitation and under regulation by the regional agencies," Collette warned.

The global tuna industry is an economic juggernaut, with fishing in the Pacific Ocean alone - accounting for 65%of the global commercial catch - worth around $5.5bn a year.

Toshio Katsukawa, a fisheries expert from Mie University in Japan, said only urgent international cooperation could safeguard the future of the Pacific bluefin tuna.

"Immediate action is necessary" because the risk of commercial extinction is immediate, Katsukawa said.

  • julian.pybus - 2012-09-09 07:46

    At $2739.00 a kilo, how do you expect to stop over exploitation of Tuna. It is simply not going to happen.

  • LanfearM - 2012-09-09 08:36

    It is not the sushi industry that is killing all the tuna, it is the canning industry. Get rid of tinned tuna and only sell fresh tuna, and see how the fishing quantities drop and the tuna recover. Besides, tinned tuna tastes like crap compared to fresh.

  • themba.maseko.568 - 2012-09-09 09:36

    Fish is a healthy source of protein and for other rare minerals and we must do our best to make sure fish species are preserved. I had fresh tuna in Tanzania for the first time a couple of years ago and was so surprised how nice it tastes...

  • delish7564 - 2012-09-09 12:58

    Bottom line is the usual...........too many humans!!!!

  • jacqui.daanevanrensburg - 2012-09-09 13:53

    Them Asians don't care. when there is no more tuna, they will develope a taste for elephant. Mark my words.

  • Joe - 2013-01-11 14:18

    japanese should develop a taste for chinese ... over enough of them

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