The battle to stop any move by the federal government to reduce the recreational catch of southern bluefin tuna (SBT) has stepped up with the state government opposing any change.
State agriculture minister Jaala Pulford said a move by the federal government to explore the idea of halving the daily allowable SBT take to one a day for anglers did not make sense.
Ms Pulford said the SBT catch in Victoria was still not known “and so halving the catch just doesn't make any sense and isn't based on good fisheries management principles,” Ms Pulford said.
“We need the federal government to deliver on its commitment of a catch survey before any further decisions about the management of the fishery are made,” she said.
“SBT stocks continue to grow internationally and we want the federal government to recognise the social and economic value of fishing in places like Warrnambool, Port Fairy, Portland and Apollo Bay,” Ms Pulford said.
The state government said recreational anglers were currently reporting large schools of SBT from Portland to Apollo Bay and further east into Bass Strait.
It said the Victorian recreational fishery for tuna was worth millions to Victoria’s economy and supported hundreds of jobs across the south-west.
The state’s position aligns with that of many south-west recreational fishers and fishing charter operators who fear the SBT game fishing industry will be harmed if the recreational take is reduced.
A federal government source said the idea of halving the daily recreational SBT take to one a day was one of several options that were being explored.
SBT was a threatened species in Victoria and was listed as endangered in NSW that had reduced the recreational SBT take to one a day in 2014, the source said.
It said the commercial SBT take had been significantly reduced before being slowly increased.
While the quota for the national commercial SBT take had increased by 500 tonnes, 250 tonnes of the increase had been set aside for the recreational SBT take, the source said.
It said the increasing numbers of SBT being enjoyed by recreational fishers were because recreational fishers were “riding on the coat tails” of the work done by Australia’s commercial SBT sector and other nations to help SBT numbers recover from an earlier decline.