Bluefin tuna catches to be reduced in Pacific

Fishing nations have finally agreed on a deal to limit their catches of young bluefin tuna in the central and western Pacific in 2011 and 2012 to a figure that is below the 2002-2004 annual averages, press reports said Sunday.

The agreement was reached at the annual meeting of the 25-member Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, which ended in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Saturday, Japan time, the reports said. It was the first ever international agreement to cuts on young bluefin catches in the Pacific, and followed moves to reduce catch limits in the Atlantic. The commission, including Japan, China, Samoa, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States, determines resource management measures on fish such as tuna, bonito and swordfish in the central and western Pacific.

The new deal that was struck will obligate Japan to slash its annual catches of bluefin tuna aged three years or less by roughly 26 percent from the present level of 6,100 tons, the Asahi Shimbun said.

The annual catch for Japan of the young bluefin tuna in question averaged approximately 4,500 tons between 2002 and 2004, the daily added.

But an official at Japan’s fishery agency in Tokyo said the reduction “will not have a large impact on consumption in Japan” as the margin of reduction is equivalent to around one percent of the country’s total sashimi tuna supply, Jiji Press said.

South Korea was resistant to the deal but finally agreed to “take necessary measures to restrict its catch of young bluefin tuna”, the Asahi said.

Japanese and South Korean fishing boats have been hauling in large quantities of the young bluefin tuna in the Pacific with large net fishing boats, and critics of this practice say that this practice seriously threatens to deplete the bluefin tuna stock in the waters, Kyodo news agency said.

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