Cuts to recreational bluefin tuna bag limit an option

REPORTS the federal government has put pressure on state governments to reduce recreational bag limits for southern bluefin tuna are “premature” according to Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Anne Ruston.

However a one-fish bag limit is one of the options being considered as part of national effort to ensure the sustainability of the species.

Ms Ruston said the federal, state and territory Agriculture Ministers were considering the “harmonised management” of Australia’s international southern bluefin tuna quote to ensure responsible and sustainable fishing across the commercial and recreational fishing sectors.

Ms Ruston said recent social media commentary by recreational fishers about the “careful deliberative process underway”, was premature.

She said no decision had been made about the future management of southern bluefin tuna but a range of options were being considered and a one-fish bag limit was one of them.

“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.”

She said a national survey of the recreational catch starting in December would guide future management arrangements.

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

The recreational bag limit for southern bluefin tuna in South Australia is two with a boat limit of six when three or more people are on board.

“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,” Ms Ruston said.

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

The commercial catch of southern bluefin tuna is managed by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority.

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 and this the first year Australia will take into account the recreational catch as part of the Total Allowable Catch.