23 Oct 2009

Southern blue fin tuna stocks at crisis levels - report

2:04 pm on 23 October 2009

A secret report prepared by Australian marine scientists estimates that the spawning stock of southern blue fin tuna is at 5% of 1940's levels.

The Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna is currently meeting on Jeju Island in South Korea.

Australian officials there think the species is in crisis and are debating whether southern bluefin tuna will be able to survive current fishing levels.

The ABC reports that a confidential scientific report before to the commission shows the stock is heading towards a total collapse.

The commission includes Australia, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, New Zealand and Indonesia. It decides the total allowable catch and what each country can take from the ocean.

Australia has the largest quota and can take 5265 tonnes per year. Japan has the second largest quota at 3000 tonnes per year.

The meeting is closed until a decision on the total allowable catch is hammered out between the countries.

The ABC reports the Australian federal government believes the stock is in crisis, and the current level of spawning stock is at internationally recognised warning levels.

Decisions from the meeting and the report are expected to be made public on Friday.

Largest industry

Southern bluefin tuna is Australia's largest fishing industry. The upcoming fishing season starts on 1 December 1.

The ABC reports the meeting coincides with moves in Europe to ban the fishing and export of the prized northern bluefin tuna.

A submission has been made to list the fish as critically endangered. A decision is expected next April.