Taiwan's 2010 bluefin tuna catch drops 60 percent - Focus Taiwan

Taiwan's 2010 bluefin tuna catch drops 60 percent

Taipei, June 18 (CNA) Taiwan reported Thursday a distinct drop of60 percent in the bluefin tuna catch in 2010 after a proposal to bantrade in the fish was rejected at a meeting of the Convention onInternational Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora(CITES) in March.

So far this year Taiwan has caught 1,141 bluefin, representing a60 percent drop compared with the catch of 2,821 in the same periodof last year, Fisheries Agency Director-General James Sah said.

At the Donggang fish market in Pingtung County -- Taiwan's mainport for tuna -- fishermen have only caught 795 bluefin so far, adrop from 2,132 in the same period of 2009, he added.

Thanks to the decline, the wholesale price of the fish tripledfrom the NT$200 to NT$300 (US$9.3) per kilo it fetched in 2009 tobetween NT$600 and NT$800 this year in Taiwan, Sha noted.

An alert on declining fish resources has sounded on one of theareas in which Taiwan fishes for bluefin, an area ranging fromJapan's Ishigaki Island to the Bashi Channel and the eastern coast ofthe Philippines, warned Hsu Chien-chung, a professor at NationalTaiwan University's Institute of Oceanography.

His research results show that in this area, the bluefin catchdensity has plummeted from 0.8-0.6 bluefin out of 1,000 fishing nethauls 10 years ago to 0.2 now.

The average age of the fish caught has also been dropping -- from9 years old on average with an average length of 240 cm to around 7years old with an average length of 220 cm, Hsu said.

"The bluefin being caught are getting younger and younger, " hesaid.

Moreover, the volume of bluefin in every age group is dropping,Hsu pointed out, adding that over the past decade, no mature femaletuna bigger than 262 cm have been seen among Taiwan's bluefin catch.

The ratio of female to male fish is not at the perfect level forreproduction at 1 to 1, Hsu added, expressing fear that the fish,regarded as a sushi delicacy, is approaching extinction.

According to Sha, 511 Taiwanese fishing boats have been grantedpermission to fish for bluefin this year, although fewer than 400 ofthem are currently operating.

(By Yang Shu-min and Elizabeth Hsu)ENDITEM/J

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