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Fishermen want science before quotas -

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Fishermen want science before quotas

Bronwyn Herbert reported this story on Friday, October 23, 2009 12:26:00

SHANE MCLEOD: Fishermen from the capital of Australia's southern bluefin tuna industry say they
want to be convinced that tuna stocks are low before there are more restrictions on the amount they

More than 90 per cent of Australia's bluefin tuna catch comes from Port Lincoln, supporting an
industry worth close to $200 million. Fishermen there say tuna stocks there have never been in
better shape.

Bronwyn Herbert reports.

BRONWYN HERBERT: They weigh hundreds of kilograms and fetch a hefty price. The Japanese market is
especially lucrative with a southern bluefin tuna commanding around $1000 a fish.

Hagen Stehr has been fishing for the tuna out of Port Lincoln since the 1960s. He says the industry
has proven its sustainability and any moves to reduce the total catch they are allowed to fish
doesn't make sense.

HAGEN STEHR: The industry has never been in better shape. It's not like out northern neighbours, in
the northern hemisphere they, and northern bluefin is totally different.

But in southern bluefin tuna that is a different story because we have not seen any decline of our
fishery at all. Quite on the contrary. We have had some very, very good years.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Hagen Stehr says he disputes the figures that spawning rates of bluefin have
dropped to 5 percent of that in 1940.

HAGEN STEHR: That is just nonsense. And the reason that it is nonsense is the CSIRO have made so
many mistakes in the past, it does not hold true what actually happened.

But the overfishing of the Japanese certainly has been a concern in the past, but not in Australian
waters. We in Australian waters are really; we've got a very, very strict management regime.

BRONWYN HERBERT: David Ellis is the research manager for the Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna

He says if it is proven that those figures provided to the Commission for the Conservation of
Southern Bluefin Tuna are accurate, the industry would act but there needs to be more scientific

DAVID ELLIS: It comes back to ground truth in that data to ensure that it is an informed figure
that we are working with. And there's different issues that we have to look at to make sure that we
are using credible information.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Can you tell me why there are these concerns that these kind of figures aren't the
truth? Why is there a little bit of scepticism out there?

DAVID ELLIS: Over the past few years the fishermen have been reporting significant increases in the
fishery, the amount of fish they're seeing while they're out there fishing. And that's been
reflected in some of the aerial surveys that we've done for the tuna.

So what you're seeing out on the water is not necessarily matching up with the information that's
coming out in the analysis.

BRONWYN HERBERT: David Ellis says a reduction in the allowable take wouldn't be all bad news. He
says a reduced supply inevitably means better prices.

DAVID ELLIS: If there are any cuts we are looking at a supply demand relationship, so whilst the
supplies drop down the demand could increase. And so we could be looking at more opportunities but
we won't know that until we find out the outcomes from this meeting today.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Is everyone holding their breath a little down in Port Lincoln for the outcomes of
this meeting?

DAVID ELLIS: To a certain extent. The industry is eager to find out, where are we going for the
future? Because we've got pontoons in the water ready for the season coming up, boats are fitted
out, ready to go. And it's about informing the industry so that they can make changes if necessary.

SHANE MCLEOD: David Ellis from the Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Association ending that report
from Bronwyn Herbert.