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Victoria Seeks Assurances on Southern Bluefin Tuna

29 June 2012

AUSTRALIA - The Victorian Coalition Government is seeking assurance that the valuable southwest Victorian southern bluefin tuna angling sector will be guaranteed long term access to the fishery.

Agriculture and Food Security Minister Peter Walsh said southern bluefin tuna was an important fishery for recreational anglers in Victoria who were entitled to an ongoing share along with the commercial sector.

"The southern bluefin tuna fishery is a significant resource for recreational fishers, charter operators and tourism operators in southwest Victoria while also supporting an important commercial fishery based in Port Lincoln in South Australia," Mr Walsh said.

"We are seeking assurances from the Commonwealth Government that fair consideration will be given to both the recreational and commercial sectors in future decision making about access to the southern bluefin tuna resource."

Mr Walsh said the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) was in discussions with the Commonwealth over future resource sharing arrangements for southern bluefin tuna which the Victorian Coalition Government expected to result in guaranteed long term access for the recreational sector.

Tourism charter boat operators have invested significantly in building the recreational angling experience and that financial commitment needs to be respected and given security.

In order to quantify the importance of recreational southern bluefin tuna fishing, the Coalition Government, in conjunction with Glenelg Shire, has recently commissioned Deloitte Access Economics to undertake a study into the contribution it made to Portland and the broader southwest Victorian economy.

"We know recreational southern bluefin tuna fishing provides significant economic benefits to the region and this study will quantify just how important that contribution is," Mr Walsh said.

The study follows a survey released by DPI that estimated last year's recreational harvest of southern bluefin tuna by anglers fishing from trailer boats off the southwest Victorian coast to be around 19,700 fish, equivalent to 240 tonnes, with a further 6,900 fish caught and released.

Fisheries Victoria Executive Director Anthony Hurst said the 240 tonne harvest was equivalent to 6 per cent of Australia's commercial catch allocation in 2011.

Some additional survey work shows that the total recreational catch of southern bluefin tuna is likely to be considerably higher, with at least another 594 tuna caught by anglers operating from boats that return to moorings in Portland Harbour.

The survey was funded by recreational fishing licence fees and is the first study of its kind to quantify the recreational southern bluefin tuna catch. It involved interviewing more than 1,900 anglers at Apollo Bay, Warrnambool, Port Fairy and Portland boat ramps.

It found recreational anglers undertook more than 6,200 trailer boat trips in Victorian waters in pursuit of southern bluefin tuna, with 83 per cent of those from Portland.

Mr Hurst said the study provided vital information for state and federal fisheries agencies involved in the management of southern bluefin tuna stocks throughout Australia and internationally.

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