Major fishing nations have failed to agree to deep cuts in the amount of tuna caught in the Pacific Ocean, angering conservationists who claim unsustainable fishing is threatening the species.
A week-long meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, held in Cairns, has seen large fishing nations, such as the US and China, refuse to drastically reduce the amount of tuna they take from the Pacific.
The 33 member states of the commission, which is tasked with ensuring sustainable fishing, negotiated a proposal to reduce the amount of yellowfin and bigeye tuna, which is regularly used in sashimi and sushi, by 2018.
However, this proposal, along with a move to cut the amount of long line fishing, which is blamed for unnecessarily scouring tracts of ocean of fish, have failed to find a consensus agreement required to pass.
The US, China, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia and Taiwan are responsible for 80% of bigeye tuna caught each year. In 2012, a record 2.6m tonnes of tuna was hauled from the Pacific – 60% of the global total.
The Cairns meeting has been viewed as a battle between large fishing nations such as the US and small Pacific nations, which have warned of the consequences of overfishing.
Despite the lack of progress on cutting tuna quotas, the commission has agreed to a ban on fishing the silky shark, a near-threatened species that often ends up as bycatch.
Large fishing vessels will also now have to carry unique identification numbers, similar to passenger and cargo ships. The move is aimed at reducing illegal and unreported fishing.
“The big nations are the disappointing ones, given that they’ve refused to take cuts in their quota,” said Amanda Nickson, director of the Pew Charitable Trusts’ tuna conservation project. “All the scientific advice shows that tuna is being overfished. Bluefin tuna numbers, for example, are less than 4% what they were prior to being fished.
“The week has been enormously frustrating. Although there has been progress on some measures, it’s disappointing to see the commission fail on its core objective, which is to ensure sustainable fishing. The commission has been around for 10 years now and needs to front up to its responsibilities.”
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