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Tuna under threat in key SE Asia ecosystem: WWF

File image.
by Staff Writers
Jakarta (AFP) Oct 21, 2008
Key tuna species are under threat from overfishing in Asia's diverse Coral Triange region and a drastic rethink is needed to stave off collapse, environmental group WWF said Tuesday.

Tuna species in the triangle, including heavily overfished bluefin and bigeye tuna, are under increasing pressure as fleets move in from depleted fishing grounds in other parts of the world, WWF researcher Lida Pet Soede said.

The Coral Triangle -- which is bounded by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and East Timor -- contains spawning and nursery grounds as well as migratory routes for up to 89 percent of the world's tuna catch, according to the WWF.

The triangle is one of the most biologically diverse areas on earth.

"The larger context of the Coral Triangle, where there still are very important spawning grounds for a number of very valuable tuna species is critical," Soede said.

A decision last week by Spain, Japan and other countries to close down bluefin tuna fishing in the Mediterranean will mean more fishing ships will move into the triangle, Soede said

"Regional collaboration around management of this global commodity is pretty obvious. If you can't agree on managing this commodity together, everybody is going to get hurt," she said.

Representatives from the six Coral Triangle nations, fishing companies and WWF are meeting in the Indonesian capital until Thursday to discuss ways of curbing overfishing in the area.

Discussions are set to include the creation of a carbon-trading style system to pay countries with large spawning grounds such as Indonesia in return for reducing fishing of tuna, Soede said.

Saut Hutagalung, a senior official in the Indonesian fisheries ministry, said the country was struggling to regulate tuna fishing by a fleet of mostly small, unlicensed boats.

Indonesia has no effective quota system for species apart from the lucrative bluefin tuna, prized for sushi and sashimi, Hutagalung said.

The archipelago nation produced 700,000 tons of tuna in 2007, he said.

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