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Talks to tackle troubled times for tuna -

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Talks to tackle troubled times for tuna

Timothy McDonald reported this story on Friday, October 23, 2009 12:22:00

SHANE MCLEOD: It's one of the worlds most sought after fish and it could soon be even harder to
land on a restaurant plate.

Scientists say a dramatic drop in numbers of the southern bluefin tuna means there needs to be big
cuts in the allowed global catch.

An international meeting of fisheries agencies in Korea is considering cutting the take by up to 50
percent.

While fishermen are concerned about the financial impact of such a dramatic cut, environment groups
say there has to be immediate action.

Timothy McDonald reports.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: The Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna is meeting in Korea
where it will come up with a plan to help the species.

It's been reported that they have scientific evidence before them that the bluefin has declined
massively since fishermen started pulling it from the water.

Dr Campbell Davies from the CSIRO says the species is under significant strain.

CAMPBELL DAVIES: The southern bluefin tuna stock has been fished for some time, since the mid
1950s. And as best as we can estimate at the moment the stock is likely to be less than 10 percent
of its original level. So it's at a historical low.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: He says the species is unlikely to go extinct but it could fall to levels that
significantly affect its breeding cycle. If that happens it could take a long time to recover.

CAMPBELL DAVIES: The concern now is that you might get substantial drops in the level of
reproduction and therefore the numbers of young fish coming into the population and that that would
lead to an ongoing decline, at least the population staying at very low levels for some time.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: The meeting in Korea is reported to be considering cutting the total allowable
catch by up to 50 percent.

Activists groups say the move is necessary and timely.

Darren Kindleysides is the director of the Australian Marine Conservation Society. He says the
sooner the governments agree the better.

DARREN KINDLEYSIDES: Yes governments do agree that some sort of reduction in quota is needed. The
question is just how much and with a species that is reported to be at historically low levels then
a really major cut is needed. And yes a 50 percent cut probably is appropriate now to save this
threatened species.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Darren Kindleysides says even if the catch is reduced the southern bluefin tuna
fetches high prices at market and could be vulnerable to illegal fishing.

DARREN KINDLEYSIDES: With a fish like southern bluefin tuna that is just so valuable then yes, I
mean there is illegal fishing.

And you're not necessarily pointing the finger at some of the countries involved in these
negotiations but you have a valuable fish, it will be caught illegally. And so in addition to
having quotas that allow the stock to recover you need to have the enforcement, you know, the
fisheries patrol vessels out there making sure that the quota is being followed.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Even if the catch is reduced it could be some time before there's any effect. The
commission substantially reduced the total catch at a meeting three years ago. But Campbell Davies
says the jury is still out about whether or not the move has had the desired effect.

CAMPBELL DAVIES: The systems don't work on, if you like, command and control in that if you turn
the switch down a bit then immediately the stock responds. So as I said the sort of things like the
longevity of the species and the time it takes them to grow into spawning age means that you're
likely to see quite a long delay if you like between the management action and then seeing a
response.

So I think it's probably a little bit early to judge there. But I think what you're seeing in terms
of the concern at the commission level is that they are concerned about the stock and they are
taking management decisions to try and rebuild it.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Dr Campbell Davies from the CSIRO. Timothy McDonald the reporter.