Critically Endangered bluefin tuna receives no reprieve from CITES

Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com
March 18, 2010



A proposal to totally ban the trade in the Critically Endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna failed at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), surprising many who saw positive signs leading up to the meeting of a successful ban.

"Today’s CITES committee vote not to protect Atlantic bluefin tuna is an unfortunate step backwards. This deeply disappointing and irresponsible vote signals a bleak future for this iconic fish," Susan Lierberman, director of international policy for the Pew Environment Group, said following the vote.

Despite the fact that the Atlantic bluefin population has plummeted 80 percent since 1970, only 20 nations voted for a ban. Sixty eight countries voted against a ban—including Japan and Canada—while 30 abstained. The Atlantic bluefin tuna is currently classified by the IUCN red list as Critically Endangered, and an all-out ban has repeatedly received the support of international scientists.


The bluefin tuna. Photo courtesy of NOAA.
"This meeting presented a golden opportunity for governments to take a stand against overfishing, and too many governments failed to do so. The Atlantic bluefin tuna will not receive the protections of a suspension in international trade that it so desperately needs. The market for this fish is just too lucrative and the pressure from fishing interests too great, for enough governments to support a truly sustainable future for the fish," Lierberman says.

Japan, which consumes three-quarters of the bluefin trade, lobbied hard against the ban. Bluefin tuna is lucrative business: estimated at 7.2 billion US dollars a year. In fact, a single fish can sometimes sell for over 100,000 US dollars at the Tokyo Market.

Protection of the Atlantic bluefin tuna now goes back to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), which has faced fierce criticism for its continuing unwillingness to place more strident measures on the trade.

Last year, ICCAT scientists called for a total suspension of fishing stating that the Atlantic bluefin tuna's spawning biomass is less than 15 percent of its original stock before industrial fishing. Instead of following their scientists' advice, ICCAT set a quota of 13,500 tons.

"Today’s vote puts the fate of Atlantic bluefin tuna back in the hands of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the very body that drove the species to the disastrous state it is now in," Lierberman says.

According to The Economist, the evening before the vote, meeting members took part in a reception at the Japanese embassy where bluefin tuna sushi was conspicuously served.







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CITATION:
Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (March 18, 2010).

Critically Endangered bluefin tuna receives no reprieve from CITES.

http://news.mongabay.com/2010/0318-hance_bluefin_cites.html