28 Nov 2010

Bluefin tuna catch quota virtually unchanged

1:30 pm on 28 November 2010

Fishing nations have opted to leave catch limits for eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna virtually unchanged despite concerns that the species is perilously close to collapse.

The 48-member International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) decided at the close of a 10-day meeting in Paris that the total annual quota will be trimmed from 13,500 tonnes this year to 12,900 tonnes in 2011.

The ABC reports that some nations at the meeting favoured a much lower cap, or even a suspension of fishing, to ensure the bluefin's long-term viability.

But they were outvoted by industry representatives and the governments that back them.

France's agriculture and fisheries minister, Bruno Le Maire, says the quota "will make it possible to reach maximum sustainable yield by 2022, which represents a balance between respecting natural resources and preserving the social-economic fabric".

US, Greenpeace disappointed

ICCAT scientists calculate that the new catch levels will put eastern Atlantic bluefin on track for a 70% chance of reaching sustainability by that date.

The same scientists, however, caution that the data upon which these estimates are based is spotty at best, while conservationists counter that a 30% risk of failure is too high.

Currently, eastern Atlantic bluefin are at 85% of historical levels and 30% of "maximum sustainable yield", the target for recovery.

The United States, which had pushed for a sharper reduction, expressed disappointment, and Greenpeace says the decision confirms that the "bluefin's days are numbered".

The global environmental organisation says the word "conservation" should be removed from ICCAT's name.