U.S. backs bluefin tuna trade ban


Steven Hedlund

Published on
October 14, 2009

The United States on Wednesday threw its support behind a proposal to list Atlantic bluefin tuna on Appendix I of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauns and Flora), effectively suspending international trade of the species.

Monaco officially submitted its proposal at the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) in Madrid, Spain, on Wednesday.

In a statement, Dr. Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said that over the past 40 years ICCAT, which is responsible for managing the Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery, has overseen a 72 percent drop in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna stock and a 82 percent drop in western Atlantic stock. She added that the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean stock is being fished at two to three times the sustainable level, while the western Atlantic stock has stabilized.

Lubchenco called on ICCAT to adopt measures to end overfishing, including setting science-based quotas and closing the fishery during spawning periods, at its meeting in Recife, Brazil, from 6 to 16 November. She said the United States will consider amending or withdrawing support for the Monaco proposal should ICCAT do so.

“Improving international fishery management and ending illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing are high priorities for the U.S. government, Congress, commercial and recreational fishermen and conservationists,” said Lubchenco.

However, Joshua Reichert, managing director of the Pew Environment Group, criticized the United States for failing to co-sponsor the Monaco proposal, even though the country said it supports it. “This is a lost opportunity,” he said.

The 175 CITES members will vote on the Monaco proposal at their next meeting in Doha, Qatar, in mid-March; a two-thirds majority is required to approve the proposal.

In early September, the European Commission backed the Monaco proposal. Then, later in the month, France, Spain and Italy were among the handful of European Union countries that declined to support it.

Many conservation organizations, including the World Wildlife Fund, support the proposal. “WWF applauds Monaco,” Dr. Sergi Tudela, head of fisheries for WWF Mediterranean, said on Wednesday. “WWF now appeals to all CITES [members] to vote for the proposal. The current management regime is a total failure and is inadequate to guarantee the recovery of this iconic species — only a stop to global trade can give bluefin tuna the breather it so desperately needs.”

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