Bluefin tuna trade ban hits resistance

By

Steven Hedlund

Published on
February 17, 2010

The Blue Water Fisherman’s Association (BWFA) is drumming up opposition to a proposed international trade ban on Atlantic bluefin tuna, Jim Budi, BWFA regional director and a technical advisor to the U.S. delegation of the International Committee for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (CITES), told SeafoodSource at the inaugural South Carolina Seafood Summit in Charleston, S.C., on Wednesday.

According to Budi, about 35,000 individuals and organizations have signed a petition in opposition to listing Atlantic bluefin tuna under Appendix I of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), which would effectively ban international trade of the species to protect it from overfishing. U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) are among those who have voiced their support for the petition, added Budi.

And just this week, the BWFA sent a letter to U.S. Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) asking him to sign the petition, said Budi.

In October, Dr. Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, backed an Appendix I listing, which Monaco had proposed in July.

“We are sending a clear and definitive statement to the international community that the status quo is not acceptable,” said Lubchenco at the time. “Over the past 40 years, the international body that manages bluefin tuna, ICCAT, has overseen a 72 percent decline in the adult population of the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean stock of bluefin tuna and an 82 percent decline in the adult population of the western Atlantic stock.”

However, in November, ICCAT slashed the eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna quota to 13,500 metric tons in 2010, compared to 22,000 metric tons in 2009.

Recently, France and Italy backed an Appendix I listing, joining the European Commission and a number of other European Union countries.

But Budi said on Wednesday that the status of Atlantic bluefin tuna stocks are not as dire as they’re made out to be in the press. The environmental NGOs pushing for an Appendix I listing are trying “to use CITES as a management tool,” he said. “If the NGOs can use CITES to stop a fishery that will set a precedent.”

The proposed Appendix I listing is due to come to a vote at CITES triennial conference in Qatar from 13 to 25 March.

If the Appendix I listing is approved, it would cause the U.S. longline fleet “a lot of heartache,” said Budi, a former longline fishermen who now resides in Beaufort, S.C. The BWFA represents 65 vessels on the U.S. East Coast, some of which fish for bluefin tuna.

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