SBT is a lucrative export commodity for Australia, valued at around $130 to $150 million per year and recreational fishing is an important leisure activity for many Australians of all ages and backgrounds, with notable social and economic benefits. Therefore, there is a need to find a sustainable approach to support both the commercial and recreational SBT fishing industries. While the recognition and management of the commercial sector is well established, it is crucial to find a sustainable approach to recognise and support continued access and certainty to current and future recreational fishers.
Ultimately, there is a need to quantify the recreational harvest of SBT to satisfy Australia’s international obligations to CCSBT and the rebuilding of the SBT population. Previous FRDC funded research has assessed the most effective ways to deliver ongoing estimates of recreational harvest and the implementation of a national SBT recreational harvest survey is a commitment of the Australian Government.
Parallel to the need to quantify catch is a need to provide a targeted education program to ensure that the recreational sector understands the broader situation as it relates to SBT stocks and to foster stewardship of this iconic conservation dependant species. It is envisioned that improved stewardship and education of the recreational sector targeting SBT will facilitate responsible fishing practices in regard to reducing wastage of harvested fish, consideration of best practices in relation to fish handling to improve meat quality changing the fishery from a ‘quantity of meat’ fishery to a ‘quality of meat’ fishery, subsequently increasing catch and release rates, improved handling practices of released fish to maximise post-release survival rates and education on the need for engagement in future surveys to estimate recreational harvest. Documents such as the National Code of Practice for Recreational and Sport Fishing and the Southern Bluefin Tuna Recreational Fishery Code of Practice will be drawn on to inform this component of the program.