The story of how SBT became overfished is not unique among bluefin tuna species worldwide. What does set the species apart from the rest is the recovery that has been evident in recent years. It is becoming increasing evident however that the positive outcomes for SBT are getting lost in the negative sentiment that surrounds other bluefin tunas. This negative sentiment has potential to impact both domestic and global markets as consumers actively avoid all bluefin species due to a lack of clarity surrounding each species. The proposed documentary will seek to distinguish between the different species and provide consumers with enough information to make a more informed choice when they purchase seafood. As Australia progresses towards accounting for all sources of mortality within its national allocation of SBT by the 2018 fishing season as required by the CCSBT. The focus will be on resource sharing and the role recreational fishers will increasingly play in being one of the stewards of the resource. The documentary will explore best practice techniques for catch and release and educate fishers on the importance of fishing for the future and taking only what they need. The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) in conjunction with Dr Tracey are also planning an education campaign to inform recreational fishers and the general public about how best to use the resource sustainably. This documentary will help to ‘set the scene’ on why the education campaign is needed. Finally, quantitative and qualitative research into community attitudes towards Australian fisheries management found that that the Australian public does not have a great deal of knowledge and understanding of either the fisheries market or fisheries issues. While most assume that no news is good news, as has been seen, with a lack of information and awareness about the management of the fishery, this void can be filled by mis-information led by other stakeholders who may profit from this approach. Using a prominent and influential fishing identity will help increase awareness not only of the science-based management of SBT, but fisheries management more broadly.
Life on the Line is the true story of the Southern Bluefin Tuna, its biological traits and its history of exploitation and most recently its recovery. This documentary covers how research, managers and the fishing industry - commercial and recreational have contributed to the recovering status of this species.
The documentary tells the story of how the stock was heavily fished throughout its range until the mid-1980s when it became apparent that the stock was at such a low level that global management and conservation was required to ensure its future. It highlights the significant management measures that were implemented by Australia, Japan and New Zealand that formed the basis of the current Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT).
Along the way the documentary explores how the stock is used both commercially and recreationally. Starting with a brief history of the farming sector located off Port Lincoln, South Australia and then exploring current operations that support a significant industry. Al then ventures to the waters off southern New South Wales during the winter months to follow skipper Shane Ralph on the vessel Jordan Kate as he targets SBT using longline methods.
Recreational fishers share their experiences of a fishery that was almost non-existent in the early 2000s to one that is available to more and more fishers every year, and rapidly becoming the mainstay of many southern ports. The recreational message highlights how rec fishers can best look after their catch both for the table and when practicing catch and release. The science behind catch and release is further explored by investigating the FRDC funded work undertaken by Dr Sean Tracey into post release survivability of SBT. A conservation message based on the Tuna Champions theme underpins the overall message of responsibility and stewardship of the resource.
The story then follows the significant investment in science that has underpinned the ongoing recovery of the species, especially the ground-breaking close kin techniques pioneered by CSIRO and supported by Fisheries Research and Development Corporation. It also investigates the impact of the CCSBT management procedure, the first harvest strategy of its kind in any tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMO), on the status of the stock and its role into the future.
Amidst the optimism, the message is tempered with the reality of the situation. The species is currently listed under domestic environmental law as conservation dependent and commercial fishing is reliant on the species being managed under a formal recovery plan. Commentary from the conservation sector reinforces the need for a continued strong conservation message and strict science based management, to ensure that all fishers and consumers can continue to sustainably harvest and use the resource into the future. The documentary also provides an opportunity to recognise previous government research and management that has led to the recovery of the species and the consequential benefits to recreational fishers as a result.