Q&A: All eyes on Doha
All eyes will turn to Doha, Qatar, later this month as 175 members of CITES (Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species) gather to support or reject Monaco’s proposal for an Appendix I listing for Atlantic bluefin tuna, which would suspend international trade of the species. SeafoodSource.com spoke with Gerald Leape, senior officer at Pew Environment Group, who will attend the meeting, to get his thoughts on the future of Atlantic bluefin tuna.
Partos: There is a sense that the upcoming vote on Atlantic bluefin tuna has drawn interest from across the world.
Leape: It reminds me of 20 years ago and the proposal for an Appendix I listing for the West African elephant. The proposal stirred up the same sort of attention from the media, the government and NGOs. But if the Appendix I listing for bluefin tuna receives a “yes” vote, this will set a precedent because it would be the first time a large-scale, commercially traded fish would fall under Appendix I.
How do you think ICCAT (the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas responsible for tuna species) views the proposal?
ICCAT doesn’t like the listing. They view it as punitive, which they shouldn't. CITES doesn’t want to manage the fisheries. The goal is to give the management body the time to strengthen its management system in order to preserve the species. The resolution drafted by Monaco takes a proactive approach and gives some direction for CITES, and comfort for stakeholders. There is no desire to have an Appendix I listing for as long as possible. Theoretically, bluefin could come off the list at the next CITES meeting, in three years time. There is a chance, if they really step up and get enforcement and accountability in check. But illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing is one of the biggest problems.
What will it take for an Appendix I listing to become a reality?
Two-thirds of the members voting need to give the green light for the listing to be enforced. This is very hard to do, and the outcome is not evident. But we think it has a chance, because of Monaco’s efforts and because of the growing recognition of the stresses on bluefin tuna stocks.
Appendix I would not shut down the fishery: fishing and domestic trade of bluefin tuna would continue. In terms of quotas, CITES does not impact bluefin tuna; [it only affects] international trade. [About 80 percent of the EU bluefin tuna catch is exported to Japan.]
How important is the European vote?
Historically, no Appendix I listing has been voted through without the support of the EU. It’s not a guarantee, but if the EU can come out in support of this proposal, we think Appendix I has a better chance of success. This would not only be a sign that the primary fishing fleet is in favor, but also the sheer mass of votes, 27 in total. Although the EU votes with one voice, the actual individual 27 member votes are counted.
And the recent vote from the European Parliament [in support of an Appendix I listing] was helpful, but we are still trying to assess the conditions — for example, a delay on implementation. Naturally, we would prefer the ban straight away, and a delay is not common. But at the end of the day if it is still bringing Appendix I into effect, we would be open, if it seems workable.