21 Mar 2010

NZ fought to reduce global tuna catch - ministry

5:48 am on 21 March 2010

Accused by Greenpeace of helping to push the bluefin tuna to extinction, the Fisheries Ministry says that in fact it successfully lobbied at a United Nations meeting this week for the global catch of Atlantic bluefin tuna to be reduced by 20%.

The ministry's deputy chief executive, Gavin Lockwood, says that only New Zealand's share of the southern bluefin tuna catch has increased (by 27%), and that is because of a long-standing agreement.

The New Zealand catch has been lower than those of other countries for some time, he says.

Mr Lockwood says that in any case the ministry is proposing to take only 530 tonnes of New Zealand's 750-tonne allocation.

The ministry acknowledges that stocks of the fish are historically low.

Poor nations fear economic devastation

At the UN meeting, in Doha, New Zealand representatives were among those who voted against a ban on bluefin tuna trading.

The ban was also opposed by Japan, Canada and many poor nations, who claimed that it would devastate fishing economies.

Greenpeace oceans campaigner Karli Thomas says the decision will be disastrous for a species already mismanaged for years.

The BBC reports that stocks of the fish have fallen by about 85% since the industrial fishing era began.

Almost 80% of traded bluefin tuna is imported by Japan for sushi and sashimi.