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Assessment of IUU fishing for Southern Bluefin Tuna


  • Polacheck, Tom


Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is recognized as one of the largest threats to the sustainability of the world's fisheries. This paper focuses on IUU fishing in the context of unreported catches by members or co-operating non-members of regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) and their implications for scientific assessments of stock status and management advice. A review of Japanese market statistics was undertaken in 2006 by an independent panel in relation to catches of southern bluefin tuna (SBT). Based on this review, the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) concluded that very substantial and continuous unreported catches of SBT had been taken by longline vessels since at least the early 1990s. While uncertainty exists about the fleets contributing to these IUU catches, the assumption used within the CCSBT Scientific Committee is that a significant proportion of these were taken by Japanese longliners. Implications of these unreported catches for the stock assessments by RFMOs are discussed in light of the central role that Japanese vessel reported data have in the assessment of the world's tuna and billfish stocks. Results indicate that it is plausible that the unreported catches of SBT stem from the misreporting of catches as other tuna species and/or the location of fishing effort. The magnitude and extended period of the unreported SBT catches highlight the wide-spread risks of relying on fishery dependent logbook data in the absence of verification. An urgent need exists for minimum standards of verification of catch, effort and landing statistics for use in scientific assessments. The fisheries science community needs to be more pro-active in the development of such standards and the implementation of independent monitoring and verification. In addition, there is a need to reform the operation of the scientific bodies of RFMOs in terms of transparency, the treatment of uncertainty and the burden of proof if they are to be effective in providing objective scientific advice consistent with the intent of international agreements.

Suggested Citation

  • Polacheck, Tom, 2012. "Assessment of IUU fishing for Southern Bluefin Tuna," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(5), pages 1150-1165.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:marpol:v:36:y:2012:i:5:p:1150-1165
    DOI: 10.1016/j.marpol.2012.02.019

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