American tuna harvesters slighted

The Obama administration announced Wednesday that it's supporting Monaco's proposal to ban the international trade of Atlantic bluefin tuna. Which means U.S. tuna fishermen - who've done more to promote bluefin health than their global fishing brethren - get the short end of the stick. Again.

No one argues that bluefin stocks abroad are in trouble. Or that bluefin there are being overfished. Or that something has to be done to curb fishing practices occurring overseas.

Such concerns likely spurred Monaco's proposal to restrict international bluefin trade via CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. The proposal would list Atlantic bluefin tuna under Appendix I of the CITES treaty, which is for species threatened with extinction. International trade for Appendix I species is prohibited.

That doesn't mean the proposal will be approved when CITES member nations gather in Doha, Qatar in a little over a week. U.S. support for the proposal could influence other nations to back it, too. But Europe's enthusiasm for the trade ban is questionable.

And if it does pass, there's the matter of Japan, which drives the bluefin trade thanks to high demand there for the pricey tuna. Under the CITES treaty, should Japan take 'reservation' status, it can only trade with other CITES member nations who take reservation status. American tuna fishermen say Japan could easily circumvent the CITES listing.

For decades, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas has failed to rein in harvest excesses and promote bluefin conservation abroad. Meanwhile, American harvesters who have endured lower catch quotas and fish under stricter regulations than do tunamen in other countries, would again be penalized - and could have their own government to thank for that privilege.

Thank you for your time.


Linc Bedrosian
Senior Editor, National Fisherman



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