France calls for international tuna trade ban | WWF

France calls for international tuna trade ban

Posted on
03 February 2010
France’s call for an international trade ban on endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna is a strong political commitment, but it falls well short of giving this endangered species the immediate protection it needs from overfishing.

French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo made official today that France supports the listing of Atlantic bluefin tuna on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which will effectively ban all international commercial trade.

However, France is asking for an 18-month delayed implementation of the ban pending new scientific analysis of tuna stocks.

“WWF is pleased that the French leadership among Mediterranean states is calling for the international trade ban for Atlantic bluefin tuna and we urge the French government to drop the call for an 18-month delay in implementing the ban,” said Dr Sergi Tudela, WWF’s tuna expert.

“This decision was made despite a comprehensive report made last year on the historical depletion of tuna stocks, which revealed that current stock levels are under 15 percent of what they once were.
The mechanism suggested by France for triggering the ban is not allowed under the text of the CITES convention, besides being neither scientifically nor economically justifiable.”

“Atlantic bluefin tuna is in a state of severe collapse after decades of overfishing and reproducing stocks are dwindling to an all-time low – and the driver of this situation is clearly international trade,” Tudela said. “To give the species a break, an immediate ban of international commercial trade at CITES – without condition or delay – is the only logical step for the global community to take. Anything less is woefully insufficient.”

WWF urges France to up its pressure on other countries to join it in supporting the trade ban. The support for a CITES Appendix I listing of Atlantic bluefin tuna by a major European fishing country may free up the deadlock across EU member states and the European Commission, whose fisheries and environment commissioners have been at loggerheads for weeks in a failure to agree on the formal EC position.

Italy already voiced its support for the Appendix I listing last week, along with suggesting a three-year suspension of industrial fishing.

“It now falls to EU Presidency holder Spain, other EU countries, the European Commission and all governments that are members of CITES to follow France’s lead and throw their support behind an Appendix I listing for Atlantic bluefin,” Tudela said. “The trade ban must however take immediate effect and be implemented without condition if it is to be of conservation and economic value.”

The proposed listing on CITES Appendix I was originally tabled by the Principality of Monaco. Fisheries experts at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN and the scientific committee of the management commission for this fishery (ICCAT) have both confirmed that Atlantic bluefin tuna meets the criteria for listing on CITES Appendix I.

Any future modification of a CITES Appendix I listing can only be carried out by formal proposal and discussion at subsequent Conference of the Parties (CoP) meetings. Indeed, Monaco’s proposal is accompanied by a resolution facilitating a review of the listing at the next CoP, if scientifically justified.

A listing on CITES Appendix I will benefit traditional fisheries such as the tuna traps that have lined the Mediterranean Sea since Phoenician times. These fishers will continue catching and selling tuna in domestic markets, while the bloated international purse seine fleets – the majority of whose catch goes to Japan – will be paralyzed.

Under a CITES Appendix I listing, fishermen can only catch tuna within national waters and sell to domestic markets. But France is also pushing for the establishment of an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) around its Mediterranean coastline. This would allow traditional sustainable tuna fisheries to continue their activity and sell their bluefin tuna across the European market.

“WWF supports the establishment of exclusive economic zones across the Mediterranean Sea to encourage sustainable artisanal fishing in the longer term. The monster industrial boats – pumped with public subsidies – have dominated catches in the last two decades, putting artisanal fleets in jeopardy and destroying tuna stocks. It is time to reverse this perverse and discriminatory situation, and a CITES Appendix I listing will do just that,” added Tudela.

The 175 member countries of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) next meet on 13-25 March in Doha, Qatar, where Atlantic bluefin tuna will be the headline marine species.
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