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tuna industry in disbelief

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    Tuna industry in disbelief over decision
    17 Dec, 2009 12:30 AM

    THE federal government has not rejected an application to farm southern bluefin tuna all year round but industry representatives beg to differ.

    The spokesperson for Federal Fisheries Minister Tony Burke said the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) had not rejected an application from the Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association to ranch tuna for 12 months rather than the current three to six months.

    "How long southern bluefin tuna is kept in pens is up to each individual operator," the spokesperson said.

    But association chief executive Brian Jeffriess said while this was the case, farmers were restricted by the 10kg rule.

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    Mr Jeffriess said the process of catching tuna wouldn't change but what the industry wanted was to be able to keep the fish in pens for longer, which would create more jobs, increase productivity and add value.

    He said no other tuna fishing country in the world was restricted by rules relating to the size at which tuna were caught.

    "The problem is the government has applied a rule, when we bring in the fish, every fish is weighed to get the tonnage and no fish under 10kg can be included in the weight sample.

    "The government has really put up a huge barrier by excluding any fish under 10kg weight."

    He said it would be more economically viable to get the fish when they were smaller which would result in longer term farming (12 months) and the grow out would be longer.

    "We want the government to eliminate this 10kg rule altogether.

    "We can't farm for longer while the government refuses to eliminate this rule."

    The government spokesperson confirmed the industry had approached AFMA about catching smaller fish, but would only say the government was working on new technology to accurately measure the size of fish caught.

    But Mr Jeffriess said the problem with this technology was it was still some years away from being approved.

    "This technology requires substantial trialling and we accept that.

    "But what we don't accept is that the quota was cut so suddenly we weren't prepared, the government had guaranteed us the quota cut would not be implemented until December 2010."

    To lessen the impact of the quota cut, the association wants longer term farming but Mr Jeffriess said the government refused to give any reasons why it would not eliminate the rule.

    "I just can't understand why they would say no when they could save 300 jobs, make the industry more efficient and still have the reduction in quota.

    "The government is just hoping people will forget it, but what I can't get over is they just won't give us a reason."
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