Japanese fishers plunders Aussie tuna

But at least 1500 tonnes of illegal southern bluefish tuna was taken from Australian waters last year. More is expected to be illegally taken this year.

Japan enjoys a generous fishing quota, being allowed to take more than 6000 tonnes of the popular fish from Australian waters. The illegal catch effectively gives the country an extra 25 per cent.

Japan’s Fisheries Agency revealed the extra catch yesterday, confirming the violation of international laws in an official report.

The agency conducted the studies on the tuna fish catch after Australia questioned Japan’s haul late last year.

“Some member countries of CCSBT (Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna) are expected to propose a punishment against Japan’s excessive catch at its meeting either in July or in October,” said a senior official at the Deepsea Fisheries Division of the Fisheries Agency yesterday.

The admission forced Japanese authorities to immediately tighten controls on their fishing fleet working in Australian waters.

Southern bluefin tuna are protected under guidelines laid down by an international commission after years of heavy fishing, with the worldwide catch limited to 14,080 tonnes. Some estimates suggest as much as 99 per cent of that global catch passes through Japan.

The admission is also likely to reignite tensions between Australia and Japan over maritime rights, with Japan already violating international agreements that forbid whale hunting in the southern ocean.

Some Japanese experts have claimed Australia is also breaking international law by falsely labelling wild tuna as farmed tuna.

Japan has also said it has suspicions about Australia as the amount of southern bluefin tuna it exports to Japan allegedly exceeds what it catches.

“The fish farmed by Australia become so big to the extent that is impossible biologically, if it is keeping its own limit of tuna catches,” Farm Ministry spokesman Shingo Kurohagi said.

The international commission will investigate the issue and report at a meeting scheduled for July, he said.

Source: Courier Mail (Australia)