Dwindling stocks prompt call for 25% cut in Pacific bigeye tuna haul

Kyodo News

An international body that regulates fish stocks in the Western and Central Pacific has recommended a 25 percent cut in the total annual catch of bigeye tuna, sources said Monday.

The recommendation was made by a scientific panel of the Commission for the Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, the sources said.

The panel warns that the current catch of bigeye tuna is unsustainable and stocks will fall further if nothing is done, according to the sources.

The panel is also recommending a 10 percent reduction in the catch of yellowfin tuna in the Western and Central Pacific, the sources said.

It is expected to consider the reductions at a five-day meeting in Samoa starting Dec. 10.

Bigeye and yellowfin tuna are popular in Japan because they are less expensive than bluefin and southern bluefin.

According to the panel, the catch of bigeye tuna in the Western and Central Pacific in 2005 reached 163,000 tons, the largest since data were first collected in 1972.

The annual catch of bigeye tuna by Japanese fishing boats in the area exceeds 30,000 tons, the largest in the world, according to the Fisheries Agency.

Consumption of bigeye tuna is increasing because of its popularity in sushi and sashimi. Yellowfin is used for sashimi and canned products.

The price of bigeye tuna is rising, partly because Taiwan agreed to reduce the size of its fishing fleet in an effort to cut the bigeye tuna catch. Price rises may accelerate, depending on the commission’s decision.

Japan’s annual fishing quota for southern bluefin tuna will be halved to 3,000 tons for five years beginning in 2007 from 6,065 tons this year, the Fisheries Agency said last month.