Southern Bluefin Tuna

​​​​Listing of Southern Bluefin Tuna as conservation dependent frequently asked questions

On 24 November 2010, the federal environment minister announced his decision to list southern bluefin tuna as conservation dependent under national environmental law (the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999) (the EPBC Act). The listing as conservation dependent recognises the strong measures in place in Australia to manage southern bluefin tuna, and also accounts for the progress being made at an international level to rebuild the global stock to ecologically sustainable levels. It does not prevent or restrict fishing within Australian waters.

What is conservation dependent listing under national environment law?

Species that are found to be threatened due to historic decline but are now under sustainable management arrangements may be listed as conservation dependent under national environment law.

A fish species can be listed under this category:

  • if it is already subject to a plan of management that includes actions to stop its decline and support its long-term recovery
  • where not having this management plan would adversely affect the species’ conservation.

The global stock of southern bluefin tuna is in a poor state, with the spawning stock biomass currently estimated to be at 3 to 8 per cent of its unfished levels. Management measures introduced in recent years have helped stabilise the population, and the species is now under a plan of management aimed at rebuilding the stock. This makes it eligible for the conservation dependent category.

Species listed as conservation dependent are not matters of national environmental significance and therefore do not trigger the offence provisions under the EPBC Act.

What plan of management is in place to support the long-term recovery of southern bluefin tuna?

Commonwealth fisheries are managed under the Fisheries Management Act 1991 or the Torres Strait Fisheries Act 1984. Southern bluefin tuna is managed under the Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery Management Plan 1995 in force under national law, in addition to the Fisheries Management Act 1991.

A requirement of the EPBC Act is that fisheries management plans are assessed and accredited by the environment minister. 

What international measures are being taken?

Southern bluefin tuna is highly migratory and is fished by a number of countries. This group of countries formed the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin (CCSBT), which is the body responsible for international management of the species. The CCSBT has committed to actions to rebuild the southern bluefin tuna stock to ecologically safe levels, including by reducing the global catch by 20 per cent for the 2010 and 2011 fishing seasons. The CCSBT has also agreed to develop a long-term rebuilding strategy for southern bluefin tuna that will guide the setting of global catches for 2012 and beyond. Australia will host a special meeting of CCSBT in 2011 to evaluate and adopt this rebuilding strategy.

In the past three years, the CCSBT has also strengthened the monitoring and compliance measures for the global fishery so that illegal fishing for southern bluefin tuna does not pose a threat to the recovery of the stock.

Will the conservation dependent listing affect the international management of southern bluefin tuna?

The listing of southern bluefin tuna as conservation dependent under Australia’s environmental law will not affect the international management of the species. The listing under national law recognises the need to recover southern bluefin tuna over the long-term and the strong measures in place in Australia to manage the stock.

What does the conservation dependent listing mean for commercial fishing of southern bluefin tuna in Australia?

The conservation dependent listing recognises that commercial fishing for southern bluefin tuna is carried out under a legislated domestic management plan. Catch levels set under that plan reflect the decisions of the CCSBT, which are legally binding on Australia.

What does the conservation dependent listing mean for recreational fishing of southern bluefin tuna in Australia?

The listing of southern bluefin tuna as conservation dependent does not restrict or prevent recreational and game fishing for southern bluefin tuna and the species continues to be subject to existing state fisheries management arrangements. The Commonwealth government is working with relevant state governments to improve the monitoring and management of recreational fishing for southern bluefin tuna around Australia.

More information can be obtained from the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities website.

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