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Australia is cutting its catch of southern bluefin tuna by 30 percent after warnings from scientists that stocks are close to collapse. The reduction follows an international seafood conference in South Korea.
The southern bluefin tuna catch is worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Australia but marine researchers estimate that stocks are dangerously low.
The Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna, which represents all the major countries that catch the fish, recently met in South Korea.
There was broad agreement at the conference that bluefin fishing quotas had to be cut immediately. While the overall international quota has been cut 20 percent, Australia, which is responsible for about 40 percent of the world's catch, must cut its take by almost a third.
The cut hits Australian fishermen hard. Southern bluefin tuna is Australia's largest fishing industry and the annual season starts in early December.
Not everyone thinks the industry is in crisis.
In Sydney, fish retailer, Tony Tsiklas, does not think that tuna stocks are dangerously low."Some of the fishermen have been telling me that you can actually walk on the water, that's how many there is out there in winter. If you haven't got a quota to catch it, you can't catch it, and they keep cutting them off," he says, "Now Australia's got a good system here like the way that we're doing it, alright, to sustain for generations to come."
Moves to reduce quotas are likely also push up prices at Japanese sushi restaurants, which buy almost all of the catch.
Australia has had the largest quota at more than 5,000 tons a year, while Japan's quota was set at 3,000 tons. Environmentalists think the cuts will help to safeguard a vulnerable species.
The meeting in South Korea comes as authorities in Europe consider a ban on catching and exporting this prized species because of conservation concerns.