Media Release: Responsible, sustainable management of Southern Bluefin Tuna needs a cooperative approach

The harmonised management of Australia’s international quota for Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT) is being considered by the Commonwealth, State and Territory Agriculture Ministers, to ensure responsible and sustainable fishing across the commercial and recreational fishing sectors.

Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Anne Ruston, said no decision has been made about the future management of SBT but a range of options are being considered.

“Recently, social media commentary by recreational fishers about the current careful deliberative process under-way, has been premature,” Minister Ruston said.

“SBT is very important to our regional communities in southern Australia – it’s one of Australia’s premium export products and a phenomenal recreational fish to catch.

“The management of SBT is not about banning recreational fishing or playing off recreational and commercial interests.

“It is about fishing responsibility and sustainably, both now and in the future.

“It’s clear that recreational fishers are keen to partner on the management of this global species, from the support they gave to the recent announcement of the Tuna Champions program, which I proudly launched last month in Hobart.

“In December we will commence a national survey of the recreational catch, which will inform future management arrangements for this iconic fish.

“There are currently a range of different recreational limits across Australia, with NSW reducing their bag limit from seven to one in 2014.

“The Commonwealth does not want to assume the day to day management of the recreational catch of SBT – we believe the States are best placed to continue that role.

“However, Australia takes seriously its international obligations to manage this iconic, conservation dependent species whilst it is in our waters.

“It’s the right of every Australian to catch a feed of fish but we all need to do this in a sustainable and responsible manner.

“We’re looking to guarantee this recreational fishing experience for the children and grandchildren of today’s anglers."

Background Notes

  • SBT remains listed as a “Threatened Species” in Victoria
  • SBT’s spawning biomass is estimated to be 11% of its unfished level
  • SBT is subject to an international recovery plan and the fishery will only fully recover if careful domestic and international management is maintained
  • The Australian government is seeking consistent management measures through a memorandum of understanding with the States
  • There are currently a range of different recreational limits across Australia
  • A one fish bag limit is just one of the many options being considered. NSW already has a one bag limit for SBT
  • The management of the commercial catch of Southern Bluefin Tuna is dictated by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA)
  • For the 2017-18 season, Australia was allocated 6,165 tonnes, of which, 250 tonnes was voluntarily set aside to account for mortality by the recreational fishing sector
  • There has never been a limit on the total catch taken by Australia’s recreational fisheries. This is the first year Australia will take into account the recreational catch as part of the TAC
  • In order to rebuild the global SBT stock, Australia’s commercial fishers have suffered large cuts to catch limits in the past, from a quota of 14,500 tonnes in 1986
  • The current quota is the highest in 22 years and demonstrates the effectiveness of strict management based on science, and a commitment from the industry to rebuild the species
  • Australia must fulfil its commitments to the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT
  • Valued at over $131 million, the Commonwealth SBT fishing industry supports many local economies and provides jobs in major landing ports including Port Lincoln, Mooloolaba, Ulladulla and Coffs Harbour.
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