Home' Ausmarine : October 2009 Contents Sometimes I wonder about the rationality and prudence of
some of our so-called leaders in the tuna industry. Eespecially
those who have been around for many years but haven't got
one cent invested in the game yet persist in pushing their own
opinions about where our industry should be heading and
what is right or wrong.
Any one of us who is dabbling in the press or the political arena
should show and display a certain duty of care encompassing all
facets of our industry, from sustainability to marketing and at least
try to manage public and political opinion as best as possible.
ABC's Landline program (23/08/09) was a typical example; it
had an absolutely negative impact, especially with the people who
don't understand our industry sector or are just looking to make
negative comments. A lot of hogwash to say the least. All of us
who featured in the program (including myself) need to get a kick
in the behind, it was that bad. I freely admit to you that all of us
are sometimes guilty of pushing our own agendas, but we should
be aware that we will receive some flack in return when we
overstep the mark or when it becomes blatantly obvious that
particular points are so far out of left field that even the village
idiot can work out that there is something wrong. A more careful
approach is required in the future when making points or
explaining to the general public the intricacies of our industry.
For instance, if anyone doesn't believe in the future of tuna
propagation, so be it -- but you are living in the dark ages. Tuna
propagation has become a fact of life thanks to the scientists of
Kinki University, Japan and the dedicated staff of Clean Seas
Tuna. It cannot be denied any longer. The European Union is
spending mega millions of dollars on trying to conquer the
lifecycle closure of northern bluefin tuna. Japan's major trading
and fishing companies are well advanced in their approach and
research, Kinki University is already producing commercial
quantities of northern bluefin tuna, and Clean Seas Tuna in our
onshore facility has produced southern bluefin tuna, in a world
first, with fish in excess of half a kilogram and 30cm long in 140
days. It is without a doubt the beginning of an environmentally
sound, sustainable, new industry sector, regardless of how
negative your view might be on propagation.
Many critics around the world scoffed at us, saying it couldn't
be done. Well the facts are here for all to see that it can be done.
When it comes to propagation, Clean Seas has become a victim of
its own success; Clean Seas Tuna has become a little too big for its
boots! Close to 6,000 tonnes of kingfish in the water, purely
through propagation, is unbelievable but needs to be managed
carefully to ensure the market isn't saturated. In a short period of
time we have proved beyond our wildest dreams what can be done
if you put your mind to it, but it also shows what can be achieved
when industry and the science community work closely together,
all singing from the same hymnbook.
It also can't be disputed; it is an undeniable fact that we in
Australia have a highly successful tuna wildfish sector, which
through careful management has become the only sustainable
tuna industry in the world. I have been one of the harshest critics
in past years of the Canberra management style and it hurts me to
admit it but all indications show that it is working fine, as long as
the illegal catching by other nations can be stifled. I feel I can offer
such opinions as I have been involved in the wildfish sector sine
the 1960s and have seen it all.
Tuna in abundance on the east coast of Australia in early August
is indeed like the old days when we started pole fishing in
July/August on the New South Wales coast -- historically, that is
when the New South Wales season started. My belief is we have
little to worry about in our industry and signs tell us we are in
strong recovery -- the different sizes of fishes attests to that. The
only exception however is negative comments by those who know
little about our industry.
We have as yet not been able to completely change the public
perception of our industry and that is an indictment of us. In other
parts of the world (the northern hemisphere) the tuna industry at
present is drawing a lot of criticism and has become the rallying point
for the environmental Nazis, greener-than-green do-gooders in various
parts of the globe, but to be fair the criticism stems from people and
organisations who have a genuine concern that northern bluefin tuna
stocks are under serious stress. And yes they have a legitimate concern.
The resources in the Mediterranean are in bad shape.
I had an opportunity recently to talk to a close friend of Clean
Seas Tuna, Professor Barbara Block from Stanford University in the
United States. Barbara is, without a doubt, a senior world authority
on northern bluefin tuna and knows quite intimately about the
rapid decline of the resource. Rampant overfishing by countries
surrounding the Mediterranean is an undeniable fact and being
addressed to my understanding by members of the European
community. The possible listing of northern bluefin tuna on CITES
(the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of
Wild Fauna and Flora) to temporarily or permanently ban all
international trade is a distinct possibility following a proposal
introduced in July by Monaco and several other countries including
France, the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Germany, Australia and
the United States all of which have expressed support to list Atlantic
bluefin tuna, to give the species a chance of recovery.
With all the negative vibes from the northern hemisphere we in
Australia, but especially those of us in the tuna industry, have to
be vigilant and make sure everybody understands the difference
between Atlantic tuna and our species. Floating along on a cloud
of ignorance believing all will be fine is not good enough.
We in Australia have a management system which is second to
none and works successfully, not like the hotchpotch in the
Mediterranean. Everyone should also understand that we have an
industry with a lot of "sunshine", or as the Americans so adamantly
say, "green shoots are starting to come through". We also have people
like Professor Abigail Elizur from the University of the Sunshine Coast,
who, without being too "precocious" is one of the best and before
whom industry should go down on bended knee for all that she has
done regarding tuna propagation. Fact is, with the problems in the
Mediterranean, and uncertainty in Mexico, a world shortage of tuna is
developing. Quota pressure is also increasing on yellowfin and bigeye
in other parts of the world, with positive reactions on prices in the
days ahead. But we need to be vigilant. We need to get our act
together and show everybody the positives we have to offer.
We have a tuna wildfish sector second to none and have a market
with huge possibilities in the years ahead. Unfortunately the ABC
Landline program did our industry no justice. Hopefully we will learn
from this and make sure a lot more thought goes into something like
this next time so the industry doesn't come out looking so negative.
Disclosure: Members of the Baird family or companies in the Baird Publications
group own shares in Clean Seas.
Not all publicity is good publicity
A column of personal opinion by one of Australia's leading
fishing industry entrepreneurs. Hagen Stehr AO of Port Lincoln.
October 2009 AUSMARINE
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