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Tuna Fishers Doing It Tough

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August 18, 2005 - 5:04PM (redacted, for research and discussion only)

Operators in a major Australian fishery have had their incomes wiped out in recent years and are now making a loss, according to a new report.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) examined the financial performance of the longline fleet over the 2001-02 and 2002-03 financial years in the eastern tuna and billfish fishery.

The fishery stretches from the tip of Cape York south to the Victoria-South Australia border.

ABARE found that in 2001-02, each of the 135-boat fleet was bringing in an average $62,000 in income, but the situation had since changed drastically.

By the following year, operators were making an average $22,000 loss.

The gross value of production in the fishery in real terms hit a record $85 million in 2001-02, ABARE found, before falling to $71 million in 2002-03 and below $48 million in 2003-04.

ABARE said the dramatic change in fortunes of the operators was due to the appreciating Australian dollar, as much of the yellowfin and bigeye tuna is exported to Japan and most of the billfish catch is sent to the United States.


ABARE said there was no evidence to suggest stocks of yellowfin and bigeye tuna were under threat, but there were strong indications of depletions of broadbill swordfish off southern Queensland.



<i>ABARE said there was no evidence to suggest stocks of yellowfin and bigeye tuna were under threat</i>

Well, no evidence except for the fact that:

**50 years ago, you could walk on the backs of schooling yellowfin in season, from Narooma to Montague Island

**40 years ago, a school of yellowfin appeared on the Sir Joseph Young Banks, off Greenwell Point, that stretched from the coast to the horizon

**30 years ago, yellowfin could be caught from the platform at the southern end of Whale Beach

**20 years ago, there would be 90+ trailer boats fishing The Peak for yellowfin on Easter Sunday with most of them getting hookups, and plenty getting fish

**10 years ago, pros like Dave Payne at South West Rocks could still make a living fishing for yellowfin with rod and reel

And now, any yellowfin of size is a rare capture, with 30 kilo fish (only two and a half years old) considered a 'big' yellowfin off Sydney. Almost all fish are caught off the continental shelf and are inaccessible to most anglers. ABARE, you are a complete joke. You have overseen the collapse of the once great east coast yellowfin fishery and you are guilty of negligence and incompetence. Your director should be dismissed and the whole bureau needs a shake up, from top to bottom.

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