Positivity in southern bluefin tuna stock recovery

The Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association is hoping for a future quota increase after a recent report showed the fishery is on the right track.

Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences' (ABARES) 'Fishery status reports 2019', released in September, delivered a mostly positive outlook for wild fish stocks in Australian government-managed fisheries.

The report said the southern bluefin tuna fishery's biomass remained "overfished" with the estimate of spawning biomass being below 20 per cent of the unfished biomass.

However the report said under current management the stock could reach the interim rebuilding target of 20 per cent by 2035.

Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association research scientist Dr Kirsten Rough said the biomass was still recovering from historical overfishing and it would take time for the biomass to move from being overfished.

She said there were good signs though as there was an abundance of young tuna and once they entered the breeding population the overfishing tag would disappear.

Association chief executive Brian Jeffriess said the new scientific assessment of tuna stocks in the ABARES report showed there was continued strong recovery of stock since 2012.

He said it was also a good sign for future increases in tuna catch quota.

"With farming doubling the weight of each tuna, a quota increase of 50 per cent in the next decade will add another 1000 jobs," he said.

"The reality is, tuna is a renewable, sustainable and high value added natural resource, and the community benefits will flow if the right choices are made by governments."

Mr Jeffriess said due to high seas overcatch the quota was at an "all time low" of 4015 tonnes in 2009 but since then the spawning stock had increased by 92 per cent and the Australian quota had increased by more than 50 per cent.

He said the industry needed to remain precautionary with the stock and the quota.

"We also need to be especially careful with the Great Australian Bight, the centre of the global tuna industry."

Mr Jeffries is in South Africa for the annual Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna meetings ahead of the new three-year quota being set in Japan in October next year.