Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna

​​On 20 May 1994 the then existing voluntary management arrangement between Australia, Japan and New Zealand was formalised when the Convention for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna came into ​force. The Convention created the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT). The CCSBT is headquartered in Canberra, Australia.

The objective of the CCSBT is to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of the global southern bluefin tuna (SBT) stock.

SBT, Thunnus maccoyii, is a valuable, highly migratory species of pelagic fish. SBT ranges widely across the high seas regions of the southern hemisphere but also traverses the exclusive economic zones and territorial sea of countries including Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and South Africa.

SBT has a single spawning ground in the waters south of Indonesia (northwest of Australia) between approximately 7 and 20 degrees south. It is a long-lived species, living up to 40 years or more. It has a lengthy pre-maturity period with virtually life-long exposure to fishing pressure; the stock is slow to recover from depletion relative to other shorter-lived species, including most other species of tuna. SBT is classified as conservation dependent under the Australian Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and ongoing fishing by Australian companies is subject to strict compliance with CCSBT management measures designed to recover the stock.

Australian fishers have targeted SBT commercially since the 1950s. Today, SBT fisheries are Australia’s most commercially valuable and generate around $130 million annually to the Australian economy, after value adding 1. The species was initially used in tuna canneries, but the development of the fresh tuna market in Japan in the 1990s saw a major shift in the fishing and marketing of SBT. Most of Australia’s SBT quota is now caught and placed in pens off Port Lincoln, where it is fattened before being exported to the major world market, Japan.

In the decades up to the end of the 1980s, high levels of international fishing for SBT caused serious depletion of the adult SBT stock. Recent scientific assessment suggests that the spawning biomass levels of the SBT stock remain low at approximately 13 per cent of its unfished level2.

In 2011 the CCSBT adopted a formal rebuilding strategy to ensure a sustainable recovery of the SBT stock. The rebuilding strategy (known as the Management Procedure) provides the CCSBT with guidance on setting global catch limits. The CCSBT has committed to recovering the stock to an interim target of 20 per cent of its unfished levels by 2035 with a 70 per cent probability. To achieve this, global and member total allowable catches are set every three years by the CCSBT in accordance with the Management Procedure. Recovery targets are currently being reviewed in light of recent signs of strong recovery in the fishery.

Australia’s engagement in CCSBT is focused  on ensuring that the stock of SBT rebuilds, consistent with the Management Procedure, and maintaining secure access to a fair share of quota. Australia currently accounts for 35 per cent of the commercial catch of SBT.

CCSBT holds annual meetings of the Extended Commission, Scientific Committee and Compliance Committee, which are hosted by each member in turn, as well as several working group meetings each year.

For more information on the CCSBT see the CCSBT website.

Footnote:

1, 2 ABARES – Fishery Status Reports 2018

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