$800,000 boost expands Tuna Champions program across Australia

3 November 2021

The Morrison Government has continued its support for sustainable and best-practice tuna fishing with an $800,000 boost for phase 2 of the successful Tuna Champions program.

Assistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries Jonno Duniam said this additional funding would expand the existing program, which focused on Southern Bluefin Tuna, to further improve catch and release practices of recreational fishers and the handling of other key tuna species.

“We’re extending this successful program to other species including Yellowfin Tuna and Longtail Tuna, which are prized by recreational fishers around Australia,” Assistant Minister Duniam said.

“It’s about encouraging recreational fishers to keep only what they need for a feed and promoting responsible fishing practices.

“This next phase seeks to improve catch and handling methods, encourage quality over quantity practices in recreational fishers, and build awareness of the benefits of research.

“Importantly this new phase extends the program for another three years.

“Building on the Tuna Champions Ambassadors initiative will help get the message out.

“The University of Tasmania Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) is the research lead and designer of the Tuna Champions program and they have done a terrific job thus far, in partnership with recreational fishers and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation.”

Australian Trustee of the International Game Fish Association, Mr Brett Cleary, said the expansion of the program to other tuna species would benefit recreational fishers around the country.

“This expanded program will include more recreational fisheries targeting key tuna species, including Yellowfin Tuna and Longtail Tuna,” Mr Cleary said.

“Both these species are commonly caught on the east and west coasts and Longtail Tuna is caught along the top-end of Australia, including the Northern Territory.

“It means even more recreational fishers can benefit from this program, improving best practice, delivering social benefits and boosting economics of local communities supporting these fisheries.”

Chief Executive of the Tasmanian Association for Recreational Fishing (TARFish) and a Director of the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation, Ms Jane Gallichan, said that improving fish handling practices aimed to reduce wasted harvest.

“This program is about improving fish handling to ensure harvested fish are of the highest quality,” Ms Gallichan said.

“It’s also about increasing awareness of the benefits of research in fisheries by engaging recreational fishers in research pilot studies and biological sample collection.”

Fast Facts:

  • The Tuna Champions program seeks to build awareness and support among recreational tuna fishers of science-based best practice for both the release of caught fish and the harvesting of fish retained.
  • Phase 1 of the program has been highly successful, with almost a third of all southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT) fishers aware of the program after 20 months, and even more awareness amongst the most avid fishers (63 per cent).
    • Phase 1 was funded through the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and delivered by IMAS in consultation with recreational fishers and government. 
    • There has been strong evidence of behavioural change, with between 10 and 25 per cent of respondents that had heard about the program improving various practices relating to the retention and release of SBT.
  • Phase 2 of the program will extend the program to other key species including Yellowfin Tuna and Longtail Tuna. 
  • As a result of effective Australian and international management, the SBT population is continuing to recover and was recently assessed as ‘not overfished’ and ‘not subject to overfishing’. 
  • Twenty percent of Australians fish at least once a year.
  • Tuna are among the fastest fish in the ocean.