NZ to increase catch of critically endangered bluefin tuna

Feature story - January 27, 2010
New Zealand’s seafood industry and Ministry of Fisheries would like everyone to believe that NZ's fisheries are well managed and sustainable. Unfortunately that's not true. Many of our commercial fisheries still rely on bottom trawling, one of the most destructive forms of fishing there is, and numerous stocks have been fished to collapse, including three of our eight orange roughy stocks.

Last ditch attempts to save the majestic Atlantic bluefin tuna from commercial extinction are now under consideration.

Bad as it is though, things have just reached a new low. The bluefin tuna fishery is collapsing right before our eyes. The species is listed as critically endangered yet the NZ Ministery of fisheries is not only allowing the fishery to continue, but proposing to increase the quota!

Meet the bluefin tuna

Reaching over 4 meters in length, a weight of almost 700 kilograms and able to sprint faster than a racehorse, the bluefin tuna is king of the ocean. Unfortunately for the tuna, it is also highly prized for its meat - a single fish recently sold in Tokyo for 16.28 million yen - around 250,000 New Zealand dollars.

With a price like that on its head, it is no wonder bluefin is in trouble. Northern bluefin tuna, fished mainly in the Mediterranean Sea, is listed as endangered. Here in the south the smaller (if you can really call a 2.5 meter fish "small") southern bluefin tuna has reached 'critically endangered' status. Which basically means it is knocking on extinction's door.

Meet their managers. The Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna, or "CCSBT" - an organisation that is patently failing to live up to its own name. The latest science presented by the organisation's scientific committee revealed that the stock has fallen to an alarming 5% of its un-fished levels.

The first thing you would expect for a critically endangered species is that you'd stop hunting them. Not always the case in our oceans though. In a half-hearted attempt to halt the decline - but still acknowledging that under their plan the population is likely to fall even further in the short term - the CCSBT last year agreed a paltry 20% cut in fishing. And where was NZ in all of this?

The NZ representatives were there alright - making sure our fishing industry can catch MORE critically endangered tuna, with a 25% INCREASE in the Total Allowable Catch.

The Ministry of Fisheries is now trying to sneak that scandalous plan into action. They've asked for public comments during January and February, when most kiwis are more likely out fishing themselves (or at least at the beach) rather  than reading the Ministry of Fisheries' website.

But we're onto them!

Greenpeace has made a submission to the Ministry of Fisheries, and we'd like you to do the same. You can either make your own submission following the instructions on the Ministry of Fisheries website or use our quick and easy submission form here.

Imagine a world without fish

It's an alarming thought, but when fisheries managers come up with lunatic proposals like increasing the catch of critically endangered species, it becomes a very real prospect. With bluefin tuna firmly in mind, the book "The End of the Line" by Charles Clover has been made into a film of the same name.

The End of the Line was released overseas last year to widespread media interest, rocketing bluefin tuna into media headlines in the UK and even making news here in New Zealand. The film will premier in New Zealand in February, followed by screenings in the DOCNZ Documentary Film Festival.

What you can do

Use our double barrel action form to both write to the Minister of Fisheries, Phil Heatley, asking him to order the Ministry of Fisheries to withdraw this proposal at once, and make a submission on this outrageous proposal by the Ministry of Fisheries.

See the movie "The End of the Line" which premiers soon in New Zealand. The premier will be in Wellington in February.

Download the Greenpeace Red Fish Guide so you can avoid unsustainable seafood on your next trip to the supermarket, restaurant or fish 'n' chip shop. Remember to ask questions, so your local retailer knows that kiwis want sustainable seafood.

Take action now

Send a message to the NZ Minister of fisheries and make a submission opposing NZ's bluefin tuna the quota increase.

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