Oct. 17, 2007 Thousands of seabirds and significant numbers of sharks and marine turtles are being caught and killed each year in long-line fishing nets targeting southern bluefin tuna, reveals a new WWF report.
Japan’s long-line southern bluefin tuna fleet, for example, killed between 6,000 and 9,000 seabirds per year in the 2001 and 2002 fishing seasons. About three-quarters were albatrosses and one-fifth petrels.
It is estimated that annual seabird deaths from all southern bluefin tuna fishing could be as high as 13,500, including some 10,000 albatrosses. Of the 22 species of albatrosses, 19 are classified as threatened with extinction, according to the World Conservation Union.
“Southern bluefin tuna long-line fleets are fishing blind, with little or no understanding of their devastating impact on threatened species,” says Dr Simon Cripps, Director of WWF’s Global Marine Programme.
“Responsible countries must urgently implement measures to dramatically reduce the death toll.”
The new report — Behind the Facade: A Decade of Inaction on Non-Target Species in Southern Bluefin Tuna Fisheries — exposes ten years of inaction by members of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT), and calls for reform measures to be agreed at their upcoming annual meeting in Australia to stem the catch of endangered wildlife and reduce chronic overfishing.
“Currently, the commission only requires the use of tori poles, devices used to scare away seabirds from fishing lines, whereas they should be calling for a whole suite of bycatch reduction measures to be enforced,” adds Dr Cripps.
“CCSBT now lags well behind other regional fisheries management organizations’ efforts to tackle bycatch.”
The report urges members of the CCSBT to immediately agree to mandatory requirements for the collection and submission of data on the impact of southern bluefin tuna fishing on non-target species, and to ensure their on-board observer programme prioritize the collection of this data.
The CCSBT relies on ad hoc reporting of bycatch data by it members. Data is therefore piecemeal and inconsistent if reported at all. Publicly available data for seabirds indicates that thousands of seabirds are killed annually by southern bluefin tuna longliners.
Southern bluefin tuna, a migratory fish found mainly in the southern waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, is fished predominantly by Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan and several other Asian countries. Long-line fishing fleets take around two-thirds of the reported catch of the tuna species.
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