2012 Pacific Tuna Catch Reportedly Higher Than Ever

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SPC manager says ‘close scrutiny’ needed to maintain stocks

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, March 6, 2013) – Early figures for the 2012 show the Pacific tuna catch is likely to be bigger than ever before.

As tuna numbers in other regions of the world decline, more and bigger boats are heading for the Pacific.

The Heads of Fisheries Agencies meeting taking place in Noumea this week has been told 2012 is shaping up as a year of record catches.

Figures just out show that 2011’s catch of more than 2.3 million tons was the lowest since 2006.

Dr. John Hampton, Manager of the Oceanic Fisheries Program at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community says even skipjack tuna, the species with the most robust numbers, needs close scrutiny.

"It may well be that as we start to fish these species a bit intensively, particularly skipjack tuna, that we will see a bit more year-to-year variability in the performance," he told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat.

"That's probably a good sign that indeed we are reaching the sort of sensible limits of what we should be taking out of these stocks."

Dr. Hampton says an limit of around 1.5 million ton per year for skipjack would be appropriate.

He says this would allow the population to maintain a level of around half of its 'pristine' levels of abundance - the level the population would maintain if there was no fishing.

"[This] should enable the stock to certainly be viable going forward but also provide profitable levels of fishing activity as well," he said.

He also says there are concerns around levels of yellowfin tuna.

"We do think there are certainly signs in this key core area of the fishery that we need to introduce restraints on the harvest of yellowfin," he said.

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