For decades overfishing has been a major concern, but new tuna quotas utilise scientists’ recommendations to achieve a sustainable fishing effort. Despite recent tuna increases, The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), who set tuna fishing regulations, decided to set only a small increase in tuna fishing quotas, to allow population recovery.
Many tuna species have shown decreased populations as a direct result of overfishing, such as the bluefin tuna, which fell by 60% between 1997 and 2007. These declines, their high market demand, and the negative effects of tuna fishing on other species were cause for quota implementation. Recent evidence suggests a rebounding of tuna populations, but scientists warn that caution must be used when adjusting regulations, due to their still low numbers and fragile state. Concern over the long-term sustainability of conservation action has been previously raised, with scientists stressing the need to allow recovery from depleted states even when populations are increasing.
With pressure exerted on regulatory bodies by fisheries, the proper use of science when setting fishing limits has often been previously ignored. The relatively low increase in ICCAT 2013 quotas, however, helps break this trend by including science in policy-making. Such action helps guide the way towards more informed and sustainable marine use.
Plans to create a marine reserve that will become the largest protected area in the world have been announced by Australian officials last week, with controversy already rising about its motives and success.
The reserve will cover 3.1 sq km, enclosing the Coral Sea and Great Barrier Reef, areas of significant biodiversity. In the current context of marine protection, which is notoriously lacking, decisions to create the reserve should be highly commended, but closer examination has divided opinions of environmentalists and politicians.
Coral Outcrop at Flynn Reef, Great Barrier Reef – Toby Hudson
Restrictions on fishing, a major cause of conservation concern globally, have been estimated to cost the industry 36,000 jobs; compensation of 100m AUD has been suggested by Australia’s Environmental Minister. Whilst the fishing industry may resent the reserve plans, environmentalists have been quick to point out that 80% of the reserve will be open to fishing, two thirds of which may be commercial.
Oil and gas exploration is another issue. Burke declares the reserve to be “leading that next step [in protecting our oceans]”, but others claim the design to be heavily influenced by appeasing Australia’s oil and gas industries. A significant North-west region, where energy exploration has already been developed, has been left vulnerable, as are many lucrative patches around the framework.
With many conflicting interests to consider, such plans were certain to cause contention, but risk angering those concerned when sincerity and loyalty becomes questioned.