In France, bluefin tuna position still in limbo

By

Lindsey Partos, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Paris

Published on
January 24, 2010

French fishermen on Monday reiterated their opposition to a complete ban on international trade of Atlantic bluefin tuna, which would have “dramatic consequences” for the country’s fishing industry.

Their concerns come as the country awaits a definitive decision from President Nicolas Sarkozy on whether France will back a ban.

“During an economic crisis, this position would be almost paradoxical — it would lead to job cuts,” warned the National Maritime Fisheries Committee of France (CNPMEM), referring to the proposal to list Atlantic bluefin tuna an Appendix 1 of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), which would effectively suspend international trade of the species.

CITES member countries will consider the proposal at a meeting in Qatar in March.

In proposing the measure, Monaco said that in the past 50 years bluefin tuna numbers have dropped by nearly 75 percent, the bulk of which — nearly 70 percent — came in the last 10 years. Global stocks of this prized fish favored by the Japanese are currently managed by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) as two stocks (eastern and western). For the French fishermen, management by ICCAT is “sufficient.”

French fishermen pointed out that they have already reduced the number of vessels — 12 of 28 are being forced out of the fishery this year.

In parallel, ICCAT has slashed quotas 40 percent from 2009 to 2010. For France, this year’s quota stands at 2,019 metric tons, down from 3,591 metric tons in 2009.

“Bluefin tuna fishing in France involves about 1,500 [fishermen] in the Mediterranean and Atlantic. For one job at sea, you can count three on the land. A listing on Appendix 1 would have dramatic consequences for the industry,” said CNPMEM.
 
Last week, Greenpeace called France’s position on bluefin tuna is “incoherent.”

In an interview on the France 2 radio station, the French Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Bruno Le Maire said he hoped France would back the Appendix 1 listing but not ban fishing altogether. Le Maire’s comments came one day after French Minister of Ecology Jean-Louis Borloo announced he had “no doubts” about France’s position on bluefin tuna, referring to support for an Appendix I listing.

Sarkozy is expected to make announcement on the country’s official position soon.

A survey released last week by the CSA Institute on behalf of Greenpeace found that 65 percent of French consumers would favor an international trade ban on bluefin tuna trade.

“While France still hesitates over its position to place bluefin tuna in Appendix 1 of CITES, a massive majority of French people have clearly called for the immediate, and efficient, protection of bluefin tuna,” said Greenpeace.

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