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Pacific Tuna Stocks on the Brink of Disaster, Warns Fisheries Chief

Pacific Tuna Stocks on the Brink of Disaster, Warns Fisheries Chief

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The outgoing head of the fisheries management body in the Western and Central Pacific has given warning that some tuna stocks were now so low they should not be fished.

Furthermore, an international agreement is urgently needed to avert disaster for the tuna industry.

Saving the species before they all end up here. This is where many bluefin tuna end up. Tsukiji fish market, Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by: Michel Gunther / WWF-Canon. Check out project website: On the med tuna trail)

Saving the species before they all end up here. This is where many bluefin tuna end up. Tsukiji fish market, Tokyo, Japan.
(Photo by: Michel Gunther / WWF-Canon. Check out project website: On the med tuna trail)

In an AFP report, Professor Glenn Hurry, executive director of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), said the situation was not yet unrecoverable, but it was at a dangerous level and worsening.

“The Pacific bluefin is, I would have thought, at the biggest risk. It’s at about 3.0 percent of its original spawning biomass, so the amount of adult fish in the water that can spawn … it’s at a pretty dangerous level,” Hurry told AFP.

Hurry said other species were also depleted, with bigeye tuna below the critical level of about 20 percent of its original spawning biomass, and fishing this species should stop to allow it to recover.

“Of the big ones — bigeye and skipjack tuna — bigeye is about 16 percent of its original spawning biomass, so it’s below the limit,” he said.

Yellowfin tuna was below 40 percent of its original biomass.

Hurry, an Australian, welcomed Japan’s plans to propose a 50-percent cut on catches of young bluefin tuna in the western and central Pacific in a historic shift aimed at safeguarding the at-risk species.

But he said fish stocks in the Pacific had slowly worsened in the four years he had spent in the job, which he expects to leave this month, and more tough decisions needed to be made.

Pacific island nations have complained that there are too many fishing boats catching too few fish.

“We started with one of the best stocks of fish in the world, and we’ve fished them down,” Hurry said.

“And when it comes to the crunch and you’ve got to make hard decisions about reducing the catch on the stock, it gets really difficult.

“Take a little country like Tuvalu; 50 percent of the income of Tuvalu is the income they get from fishing. If you’re going to reduce (its catch) it’s going to hurt.”

Hurry said fishing stocks could recover, but the more valuable fish became, the harder it would be for small countries dependent on the fishing industry to pull back on their hauls.

He said the key problem was that there are too many vessels – at least 300 – equipped with sophisticated radar, chasing the schools of tuna.

He said the optimum number of fishing boats was passed 10 years ago.

Any trans-Pacific action to stop or limit the catch would require an agreement between the 33 countries and participating territories which make up the WCPFC, which next meets in Samoa in December.

With too many boats catching too few fish, Pacific island nations in June said they were ratcheting up the fees they charge tuna fishing boats to enter their waters by a hefty 33 percent.

The eight countries involved are from the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), which control waters covering more than half the world’s skipjack tuna, the most commonly canned variety.

From January 1, 2015, the PNA will raise the fishing day fee for so-called “distant water” fleets from as far afield as Europe, China, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan, from US$6,000 to US$8,000.

View original story from en.tengrinews.kz.

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