CITES can help save bluefin tuna, stem wildlife poaching crisis

Posted on March, 08 2010

Governments meeting March 13 for the largest wildlife trade convention will have a unique opportunity to help preserve the world’s oceans and simultaneously stem a worldwide poaching crisis.
Gland, Switzerland: Governments meeting March 13 for the largest wildlife trade convention will have a unique opportunity to help preserve the world’s oceans and simultaneously stem a worldwide poaching crisis.

The 15th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP 15) will consider an unprecedented six proposals to better protect marine species – including a crucial ban on the international commercial trade of Atlantic bluefin tuna.

Currently, the Atlantic bluefin tuna is on the brink of extinction because of overfishing and illegal fishing to feed a rapidly expanding market in recent years for sushi and sashimi, mainly in Japan, but also increasingly in the United States and Europe. Overall, Atlantic bluefin tuna stocks have declined by over 85 per cent compared to maximum historical stock levels

“This is the meeting where governments must take a stand to save the Atlantic bluefin tuna and no longer stoop to the short-term interests of a bloated hi-tech fishing industry,” said Sergi Tudela, WWF’s tuna expert. “Otherwise, this important species and a centuries-old fishing tradition could disappear forever.”

The governments will consider putting Atlantic bluefin tuna on Appendix I of the Convention – the highest level of protection under its appendix system, which would ban all international commercial trade.

Other marine species up for increased protection under CITES include red and pink coral – being harvested out of existence to make jewelry and decorative items – and four shark species.

Proposals to put these four shark species on CITES Appendix II, which would ensure stricter trade controls, will be considered at the meeting. These sharks currently are overfished because of demand for their fins and meat.

In addition, government delegations also will consider steps they can take to help stem a worldwide poaching crisis destroying tiger, rhino and elephant populations in Asia and Africa.

“Support for these proposals to help stop poaching and save the Atlantic bluefin tuna is also a way for governments to publicly show their disapproval of the corruption and organized crime that helps feed the illegal international trade in endangered species,” said Amanda Nickson, Species Programme, WWF International.

Rhino poaching worldwide is at a 15-year high and exacerbated by increasingly sophisticated poachers, who now are using veterinary drugs, poison, cross bows and high-calibre weapons to kill rhinos. There is also a marked increase in demand in Asia, particularly in Vietnam, fueled by claims that rhino horn cures cancer.

“Not only has rhino poaching in southern Africa increased but elephant poaching in central Africa and tiger poaching in Asia has risen as well and is seriously threatening these species,” said Steve Broad, Executive Director of TRAFFIC International. “At the CITES CoP, governments will have a chance to take a collective, big-picture look at what is driving poaching and illegal trade and seek common solutions.”

Tigers in particular are in the spotlight during this Year of the Tiger in the Chinese lunar calendar. All 13 tiger range states are signatories to the CITES convention.

At the CoP countries will be voting on measures that, if properly enforced, can end all illegal tiger trade for good. This is a critical measure as there are only an estimated 3,200 wild tigers left and poaching and illegal trade are the biggest threat to their survival in the wild.

For further information:
Ian Morrison, Media Officer, WWF International, tel: +41 22 364 9554, mobile: +41 79 874

Sarah Janicke, Conservation Communications Manager, WWF International, tel: +41 22
364 9250, mobile: +41 79 528 8641,

Gemma Parkes, WWF Mediterranean Communications, +39 346 387 3237,

About WWF
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Blue fin tuna
© Gilbert Van Ryckevorsel / WWF-Canada