WWF: Cautious welcome to European Commission’s conditional support for bluefin tuna trade ban

Posted on 22 February 2010    
The 2007 quota for Mediterranean bluefin tuna is more than double that recommended by scientists to avoid the high risk of collapse.
© WWF / Ezequiel NAVÍO
WWF cautiously welcomes the EU Commission’s recommendation today that the 27 European Union member countries vote for a ban on international commercial trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna through a listing on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) at next month’s meeting in Doha, Qatar.

But WWF is concerned about the Commission’s proposal that entry into force of the ban be conditional on new analysis, a procedure which is neither scientifically justified nor allowed under the CITES rules.

“Backing for the ban of international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna is growing by the day and this latest announcement from the Commission confirms this”, said Dr Sergi Tudela, WWF’s tuna expert. “WWF is pleased to see this growing support but the conditional delay proposed the EU Commission is simply not allowed by CITES – and neither is it scientifically justifiable. The only real choice, if the fishery is to be saved, is to support full implementation of the ban as soon as possible to ensure the species has a chance to recover.”

After today’s recommendation in Brussels by the newly appointed European Commissioner for Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, and Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the last remaining step to galvanise a formal EU bloc voting position in Doha will be at a European Council meeting between representatives of all 27 EU member state governments. This could happen as late as 15 March – after the opening of the CITES event – but is expected to closely reflect today’s recommendation from the Commission.

WWF calls on European representatives to drop the conditional implementation proposal and urgently engage the support of the global community for the listing of Atlantic bluefin tuna on CITES Appendix I, which requires the backing of two thirds of the 175 CITES member countries present to be adopted.

“If the biggest Atlantic bluefin tuna fishing nation in the world, France, and the EU – whose fishing industry has the highest stakes in this fishery, holding more than 50 per cent of total catch quota – can decide to support a CITES Appendix I listing for the sake of preserving the fishery and the tuna, Europe should be able to convince the rest of the international community to follow. WWF calls on EU leadership to this end,” said Dr Tudela of WWF.

“WWF is highly concerned that the overwhelming acknowledgement of, and growing support for, the necessary ban could be undermined by any conditions which might delay or even derail the process. The best available data of barely four months ago already demonstrates as clear as day that stock levels are under 15 per cent of historical levels. The international trade ban must be voted in at CITES in Doha and implementation must begin immediately if we are to save tuna stocks. The time for action is now, and that action must be clear and unambiguous if the fish and the industry are to be saved,” said Tudela.

Others to have made public their support for Monaco’s proposal to list Atlantic bluefin tuna on Appendix I of CITES include the European Parliament and the secretariat of CITES itself.

At the end of 2009 both the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization expert panel and the scientific committee of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the body in charge of managing the Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery, released analyses showing that the species amply fits requirements for an Appendix I listing.

“A CITES Appendix I listing for Atlantic bluefin will exclusively control international trade – so there will be no stepping on ICCAT’s toes. The international trade ban will rather help the fisheries management body to do its job by tackling the main obstacle to sustainable and science-based fisheries management – international trade on luxury seafood markets – while allowing artisanal and coastal fishermen to fish as usual and trade their tuna domestically. CITES Appendix I for Atlantic bluefin tuna is a win-win situation. With CITES and ICCAT working together there will be hope for Atlantic bluefin tuna and for its centuries-old fishing tradition,” said Tudela.

The 2007 quota for Mediterranean bluefin tuna is more than double that recommended by scientists to avoid the high risk of collapse.
© WWF / Ezequiel NAVÍO Enlarge

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