Europe Edges Towards Bluefin Ban

04 Feb 2010

The French government has announced its support for a proposed ban on the international trade of bluefin tuna, which would be implemented after an18-month delay for further scientific research. With the largest bluefin fishing fleet in the Mediterranean, the country’s support brings hope that the threatened species could be saved, however conservationists say that even if it is agreed to, the timeframe is too long.

Monaco proposed that bluefin tuna be added to CITES (the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species) in July 2009. This act would effectively prohibit trade in the species caught in the Mediterranean and Atlantic. The French government’s stance had been in doubt since then, with President Nicolas Sarkozy initially stating he supported Monaco’s proposal, but later joining several other tuna-fishing nations, including Italy and Spain, in objection. The government has had to balance public support for the ban with the economic interests of the Mediterranean fishing industry, and has been under pressure from the fishing lobby to stall on an immediate decision.

Bluefin stocks have plummeted to under 15 percent of their pre-industrial levels, experts estimate, and the species is in grave danger of extinction. France, Italy and Spain account for half of the world’s total allowable catch of the fish, with 80 percent of the Mediterranean catch exported to Japan. “The species is in difficulty… A ban is the most powerful measure possible,” said French ecology minister Jean-Louis Borloo.

Conservations are concerned that the fish could become extinct during the 18-month delay, given the perilous state of bluefin stocks. “Asking for 18 months to implement this measure equates to waiting until there is no more bluefin tuna before acting,” a Greenpeace spokesperson said. “The government is buying peace with the fishermen at a time of regional elections.”

The CITES proposal will be lodged officially when 175 nations meet in Doha, Qatar next month. France’s support could help bring the 27-nation European Union in line for a unified position on the issue, as many countries are showing signs of following Monaco’s lead.

Spain, which currently holds the union’s presidency and would have to present the union’s position at the CITES meeting, is widely believed to oppose a ban. Slow Food, together with other organizations including WWF, Greenpeace, Ecologistas en Acción Oceana and Mar Viva, met on February 3 in front of the Spanish media, to urge the Spanish government to support the ban.

Ecologistas en Accion and Slow Food defended the work continued by artisanal fishing communities such as the almadrabas (small, traditional tuna fishery), where fishing has been undertaken in a sustainable way for centuries, and highlighted that these fishers are the first in the industry to feel the affects of this situation.

Source: The New York Times

Simone Gie
[email protected]

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