Greenpeace activists dressed as lifeguards protested on Bondi Beach yesterday to challenge new moves by Japan to increase fishing quotas for the critically endangered Southern Bluefin tuna. The "lifeguards" demand that members of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin tuna (CCSBT) use their mandate to bring the species back from the brink of extinction. The CCSBT is meeting at Bondi's Swiss Grand Hotel from today until Saturday.

Southern Bluefin tuna have been listed as critically endangered on the World Conservation Union Red List since 1996. The adult or "breeding" population is only two percent of what it was before commercial fishing began in the early 1950s.

Japan is proposing an experimental fishing program that could add up to 1500 tonnes to the existing quota of 11,750 tonnes. The quota will be decided at this week's CCSBT meeting.(1) In the past, both Australia and New Zealand opposed Japan's move to start "experimental" fishing for Southern Bluefin tuna as a unilateral effort to increase its commercial catch of this highly lucrative species. Australia went so far as to challenge Japan's programme at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. However, based on discussions with Australian government officials, Greenpeace is concerned that Australia will reverse its position and cave in to pressure from Japan.

"An experimental fishing program is unnecessary pseudo-science, and just an excuse to catch more of this endangered fish," said Desley Mather, Greenpeace International fisheries campaigner. "This fish is at historically low levels and is being caught faster than it can reproduce. Greenpeace believes all fishing should be suspended until stocks recover. Under no condition should quotas be raised."

Southern Bluefin tuna is sold mainly in Japan for sashimi, where it can fetch up to $100,000 a fish. The Australian industry was worth $252 million in the calendar year 2000. Mather added that that support of "experimental" fishing of the critically endangered Southern Bluefin tuna, could easily undermine Australia's position against Japan's equally dubious "scientific" whaling around Antarctica.

Desley Mather, Greenpeace International Fisheries Campaigner on 0438 837 138 or
Linda Apps Greenpeace Media Officer on (02) 9263 0357 or 0409 542 753.
For vision and file footage contact Greenpeace AV Librarian Olivia Bradley on 0418 420 112 or (02) 9263 0350.


(1) The existing quota is split between current commission members Australia (5,265 tonnes), Japan (6,065 tonnes) and New Zealand (420 tonnes).

The opening session at 9.30am - 10.30am is open to public and the press.

The public can write letters in support of the Southern Bluefin tuna at a stall beside the Bondi Pavilion. The stall will operate Wednesday - Saturday April 18-21 from 8am-12 noon.