Talks to combat tuna decline

Environmentalists say political will can save tuna from commercial extinction.

    The Japanese eat about a quarter
    of all tuna caught globally [EPA]

    Japan, the world's biggest tuna consumer, has had its fleet frequently accused of overfishing by conservation groups.
    Takaaki Sakamoto, a Japanese Fisheries Agency official, said that as Japan was a major fishing nation and consumer of tuna, it "would like to take a leadership so that we can establish a system that allows us stable and sustainable management of the valuable resource".
    "It would be much more efficient to establish a universal framework for tuna management," he said.
    New game plan
    The meeting, which has brought together five regional fishery management organisations including the oversight bodies for tuna fishing in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans for the first time, is expected to adopt a plan by Friday.
    This may include a requirement for fishermen, not just exporters, worldwide to produce certificates of origin for tuna they catch to monitor the movement from the open sea to the fish market, Sakamoto said.

    Members of the mackerel family

    Species include bluefin, southern bluefin, bigeye, yellowfin, albacore and skipjack

    Log thousands of kilometres in annual migrations between spawning and feeding grounds

    Large, temperate, bluefin tuna often reach 500kg and 2 metres long

    Live up to 30 years

    About 2 million tonnes caught worldwide annually, with Japan eating most of it - about one quarter

    Environmentalists say it is high time governments recognised the seriousness of the tuna issue.
    Conservation group Greenpeace said governments "must acknowledge that a radical change to fisheries management is urgently required if they are to prevent the collapse of tuna stocks across the globe".
    Simon Cripps, director of the WWF's global marine programme, said governments have ignored scientific advice on conservation measures for far too long.
    "Sustainable management of the world's tuna fisheries should be possible, if the will can be found."
    Critical situation
    Despite efforts by some governments, populations of important species such as bluefin tuna are critically depleted, the WWF said.
    "Atlantic bluefin, used for high-end sushi and sashimi, is massively overfished and the spawning stock of Southern bluefin in the Indian ocean is down about 90 per cent," the WWF said on Monday.
    According to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, by 2004, the number of the adult Atlantic bluefin capable of spawning had plummeted to about 19 per cent of what it used to be in 1975.
    At a meeting in October last year, the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna agreed to reduce the global catch of the endangered southern bluefin tuna for 2007 by more than 20 per cent.
    Japan also promised to halve its quota for the same year as compensation for overfishing but denied allegations of poaching.
    Toshiro Shirasu, head of Japan's Fisheries Agency, said: "We are deeply concerned about the future of global tuna stock. We must strengthen our co-operation to tackle the issue."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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