Southern Bluefin Tuna lose out

The Australian Greens have failed in an attempt to halt Australia’s Southern Bluefin industry – worth around 200 million dollars a year.

The southern bluefin tuna is classified by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as being critically endangered.

I feel a little guilty when I read about the increasing threat of extinction to Southern Bluefin Tuna as I used to work on professional tuna lineboats in the 80’s and early 90’s. I willingly participated in the capture of these beautiful, powerful creatures. I had a respect for these creatures, but was somewhat oblivious to the depth of their plight.

The lure for us was the extremely lucrative Japanese sashimi market where prices over $100 per kilo were not unheard of. That’s up to $10,000 for a decent size bluefin tuna. As a share fisherman, I could make $1,000 from a single fish; although the sashimi market was a little like gambling – sometimes you’d get a high price and at other times you might wind up with a bill from the markets. Still, the lure was there.

While tuna farms have been established in more recent years, it’s my understanding that wild fish are the more highly prized fish still.

I know some of the reasoning behind the Australian government’s decision. It’s a sad fact that if we don’t fish them out, others will. Many times when I was out at sea but still in Australian territorial waters, we’d see the massive foreign lineboats and seiners fishing illegally. These guys meant business; I remember seeing one craft looking more like a Navy vessel, complete with a deck mounted machine gun. It was a strong deterrent to Australian fisherman who sometimes took potshots at these foreign vessels with small caliber firearms.

I kid you not, the competition for this diminishing resource was that fierce and with the lure of huge prices for the right fish; the stakes were very high.

Australia just doesn’t have the resources to patrol our waters effectively and therefore foreign fishermen have a field day here.

In a nutshell, our government knows that the bluefin tuna will be pushed to extinction, or at least to numbers so low, it’s not worth chasing them any more – for any country; so they are just allowing local fishermen to take their slice of cash while they can.

Sad, but true.

Read more of the Greens failed bid to halt the Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna fishery.