26, Mar, 2010

Minister makes wrong bluefin tuna and crayfish decisions?

Category: ECO Inc

The Acting-Minister of Fisheries decision to increase the catch limit for the critically endangered southern bluefin tuna and not to cut the catches of the overfished Gisborne or East Cape rock lobster has appalled the Environment and Conservation Organisations (ECO).

ECO Spokesperson, Barry Weeber said the decision by the Acting-Minister of Fisheries to increase the New Zealand catch of southern blue fin tuna by 27 percent goes against the urgent need for further reductions in catch of this endangered species.

“Southern blue fin tuna is estimated to be less than 5 percent of its original stock size and declining.”

Mr Weeber said to achieve sustainable population levels in 20 years would require catches close to zero. “The Government should have acted to put quota on ice rather than increasing the catch limit.”

Mr Weeber said the decision to not cut the catch limit for rock lobster was unfathomable and went against the claims by the Ministry of Fisheries that New Zealand runs a cautious fisheries management decision.

The East Cape rock lobster stock needed an urgent cut to allow the population to rebuild. “The stock is in a parlous state and is estimated to be at half the minimum sustainable level at about 10 percent of its unfished stock size.”

Mr Weeber, said the New Zealand Government has so far failed to live up to its commitment to protect endangered species or to sustainable management of fisheries. “This comes a week after the Government opposed a decision to list Atlantic bluefin tuna with the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).”

For further information, contact Barry Weeber 021-738-807 or (04)389-1696


  1. ECO – the Environment and Conservation Organisations was established in 1972 and represents 67 groups with a concern for the environment.
  2. Southern bluefin tuna is listed on the IUCN Red List of endangered species as critically endangered. See: http://www.redlist.org/apps/redlist/details/21858/0 Punt, A. 1996. Thunnus maccoyii. In: IUCN 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.2.
  3. Southern blue fin tuna is covered by the Convention on the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) which is based in Canberra, Australia. Analysis over recent years identified a high level of illegal fishing by Japanese interests and questions over Australian reporting of caged tuna production.
  4. At the last meeting of CCSBT: South Africa and the European Community expressed concern at the catch limit set. They noted that “this represented a significantly lesser reduction than was required to recover the stock status. They felt that the agreed TAC [catch limit] would not in all likelihood lead to an overall improvement in stocks of SBT."
  5. The current global catch limit for bluefin tuna is over 9000 tonnes which is over 50 percent greater than the level required to give the stock a chance of rebuilding to 20 percent of its original size in 20 years.
  6. The Gisborne or East Cape rock lobster quota are is one of nine quota areas. The Gisborne area is currently considered the most stressed. The latest stock assessment estimates the current stock size to be half the sustainable level of biomass that supports the maximum sustainable yield (Bmsy) stock size.
  7. “These results suggest a stock that is near Bmin and well below Bmsy. Under current catches and recent recruitments the model predicted a 75% probability of biomass decrease over four years.” Ministry of Fisheries, November 2009.
  8. The Gisborne or East Cape catch limit or TACC would need to be reduced to around 100 tonnes to increase the chance of the stock being above Bmsy to around 20%Bo. The current commercial catch limit is 164 tonnes.
  9. The Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species is meeting in Doha, Qatar until 25 March. The convention meets every two years to consider proposals from countries to change listings or add new species to the Convention’s appendices. CITES has been working to protect species (both animals and plants) threatened with extinction since 1975 and now has 175 countries as members including New Zealand. The convention protect around 30,000 species globally and has until recently been focused only on terrestrial species including birds. Atlantic bluefin tuna is listed as an endangered species on the IUCN Red List.

East Cape or Gisborne rock lobster stock assessment trajectory

Figure 12: The posterior trajectory of vulnerable biomass, by season, from the CRA 3 base case McMC simulations, including the projections from 2008-12. For each year the horizontal line represents the median, the box spans the 25th and 75th percentiles and the dashed whiskers span the 5th and 95th percentiles. Values in the AW panel before 1974 reference a complete year rather than the AW season.

From: Ministry of Fisheries, Science Group (Comps.) 2009: Report from the Mid-Year Fishery Assessment Plenary, November 2009: stock assessments and yield estimates. 209p. (Unpublished report held in NIWA Greta Point library, Wellington.)

Southern bluefin tuna stock status trajectory

Figure 4: Recruitment and spawning stock biomass for the base case, showing the medians, quartiles and 90th percentiles, together with reference points of 20% of pre-exploitation spawning stock biomass and the spawning stock biomass in 2004 (B2004). Projections of future spawning stock biomass and recruitments commence at the dashed vertical line assuming a constant catch equal to the previous TAC (11,810t). Source: Report of the ESC 2009.

From: Ministry of Fisheries, Science Group (Comps.) 2009: Report from the Mid-Year Fishery Assessment Plenary, November 2009: stock assessments and yield estimates. 209p. (Unpublished report held in NIWA Greta Point library, Wellington.)