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October 30 - November 5, 2009
3The Independent Weekly
The Fina K bobs gently on
the water docked in the Port
Lincoln marina. Next to the
boats he's worked on for five years
fishing southern bluefin tuna, Scott
Ryan looks grim. His job could now
be on the line.
Last week the Commission for
Conservation of Southern Bluefin
Tuna agreed to an international
cut of 20 per cent to the world catch
quota following fears the stock may
Australia will face a 25 per cent
slashing of its catch over the next
two years -- reducing its average
catch from 5265 to 4015 tonnes.
Conservationists welcomed the
decision to slash the quota and
stepped up calls for a moratorium
on tuna fishing, but in Port Lincoln
the fishing industry is outraged.
For this town of 14,000, the
cut - just more than a month before
the start of the fishing season -
threatens the $187 million industry,
its 2000 jobs including Mr Ryan's
and the wider community.
A scientific report to the com-
mission, which includes Australia,
New Zealand, Japan, Indonesia,
Korea and Taiwan, shows the SBT
population is in serious decline,
original unfished levels.
Years of illegal tuna fishing by
Japan has reduced the stock to
the critical levels seen today and
Australia's industry says Japan, not
Australia, should be forced to cut its
The Federal Government has
backed the international agreement,
saying it was necessary to boost
fish stocks and protect the species
"It was important all countries
agree on how to address the danger-
ously low stock levels, which were
causing concern for the sustain-
ability and future profitability of
the industry," said federal fisheries
minister Tony Burke.
"If we had failed to take action
now, the entire southern bluefin
tuna industry could collapse, which
would have a devastating impact on
the Port Lincoln economy," he said.
The Australian Tuna Association
met yesterday in Port Lincoln to
discuss industry strategies to deal
with the cut.
The Federal Government said it
would consider offering support
to the industry after plans were in
Tuna Association CEO Brian
Jeffries said the Port Lincoln
industry was shattered.
"It's a big set back," Mr Jeffries
said. "We've had these kind of
setbacks before and come back
stronger, but this time we are
Port Lincoln faced massive cuts in
the tuna catch in the late 1980s, but
embraced exporting after discover-
ing a market in Japan, a move which
created today's tuna barons who
now sell 99 per cent of Australia's
tuna to Japan where they retail for
more than $1000 each.
Mr Jeffries said while the
industry recognised the current
decline in stock condition, it was not
an equitable outcome for Australia.
"Japan has overfished in the 1990s
and severely damaged the stock, but
quite clearly Japan should take the
cut, instead in the end Australia will
take a bigger cut than anyone.
"This decision has completely
destroyed the industries trust in the
Port Lincoln Mayor Peter Davies
said it was a harsh decision for an
industry facing tough times.
He said the industry was already
suffering from high fuel prices,
the financial crises and the high
"The tuna industry is critical to
Port Lincoln, and though it is too
early to make definite statements,
there are going to be people who lose
their jobs and businesses will have
to close," Mr Davies said.
Mr Davies questioned the need for
a cut, saying he had heard anecdotal
evidence of the tuna population's
But conservationists including
the Humane Society International
want a ban on southern bluefin tuna
HIS senior program manager
Nicola Beynon said the 20 per
cent reduction in the global total
allowable catch was not enough.
"The commission is taking a big
chance in allowing the population to
stay that low," Ms Beynon said.
"The scientific report to the
CCSBT shows only a zero quota
would give the species a chance to
Tiny discovery, big surprise:
Tuna fishers Scott Ryan and David Ellis: a cut to southern bluefin tuna catch is a
threat to their livelihoods.
Photo: Kate Elmes
Forced to sing to
a different tuna
The State Government wants
uranium explorers to have access
to parts of the magnificent
Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary,
in the northern Flinders Ranges.
Premier Mike Rann told
Parliament this week that the
ranges' future required "a careful
balance between minerals and
energy exploration and the
preservation of the unique
environmental beauty of this
world-class tourist area".
The government then released
a draft management plan, with an
eight-week consultation period.
"From a total of four operating
mines when this state government
came to office South Australia is
now home to 11 mines with that
number expected to increase to 16
by the end of next year---a fourfold
increase in the number of mines
in this state," Mr Rann said.
"In addition, we have more
than 20 projects that are currently
progressing through the approvals
"Balancing the realisation
of mineral resources with the
needs and sensitivities of our
environment is a challenge for
governments the world over. That
is why the government continues
to work closely with the industry
to help ensure that our resources
sector grows in concert, not at the
expense of our natural environ-
But the conservation movement,
which includes people from the
Greens, Mr Rann's own backbench
and Liberals, believe the govern-
ment has spent more time working
with industry than the natural
"Rather than showing cowboy
miners the door, the Rann
Government's proposals allow
most of the Arkaroola Wilderness
Sanctuary to be mined, said
Greens MLC Mark Parnell.
"An overseas tourist taking the
famous Ridge Top tour to Sillers
Lookout will potentially drive
straight past a uranium mine.
"The iconic Sillers Lookout
itself is smack bang in an area
marked as 'open for mining'.
"The Arkaroola Wilderness
Sanctuary should have been
protected in perpetuity," he said.
SA's most senior Liberal
senator, Nick Minchin, said the
Premier had clearly given the
green light to Marathon Resources
to continue its uranium explora-
tion in the sanctuary.
"A careful reading of Mr Rann's
statement makes it very clear he
is happy for Marathon to continue
its exploration program, and
ultimately establish a uranium
mine in the Arkaroola Wilderness
Sanctuary," said Senator Minchin.
"While Mr Rann says there will
be a "no-go" zone in the Northern
Flinders, it is obvious from
his statement that the areas at
Arkaroola that interest Marathon
will still be open for exploration
and uranium mining.
"This is a pathetic attempt by Mr
Rann to camouflage his support for
uranium exploration and mining
in the Arkaroola Wilderness
mine, not yours
Unique beauty: Arkaroola.
Photo: Bill Doyle
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