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CITES Rejects Ban On Trade Of Bluefin Tuna


GLOBAL - The triennial general assembly of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) reached a climax yesterday (18 March) when governments rejected by vote a trade ban on bluefin tuna.

Monaco introduced its proposal to ban trade in bluefin tuna, followed immediately by the European Union which suggested an amendment to delay the entry into force of the ban until May 2011.

Japan, Canada and several members States of the Arab league opposed the proposal arguing that regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) as ICCAT were best placed to tackle the decline of bluefin tuna stocks.

They added that an Appendix I listing would not stop the fishing of the species. After a passionate but relatively short debate, the representative of Libya requested to close the deliberations and go for a vote. Iceland called for a secret ballot.

The amendment introduced by the European Union and Monaco’s proposal were defeated (20 votes in favour, 68 against, 30 abstentions) in the middle of much confusion about the voting procedures and mixed feelings of satisfaction and frustration from participants.

During a press conference at the end of the day, the head of the Japanese delegation, Mr Masanori Miyahara, Ambassador Patrick Van Klaveren from Monaco and Mohamed Saeed Al-Mohannadi from Qatar recognized that the bluefin tuna stocks are depleted and jointly declared that now is time for ICCAT to be effective.

Philip MacMullen, Head of Environmental Responsibility at Seafish (UK seafish industry authority) said: “As the authority on seafood, we are disappointed with this result and we call upon ICCAT and its member governments to improve compliance with scientific advice with regard to both the Atlantic and northern bluefin stock, including the close monitoring of vessels operating in Mediterranean waters.”

Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean said: "it is scandalous that governments did not even get the chance to engage in meaningful debate about the international trade ban proposal for Atlantic bluefin tuna."

He continued to say that the regional fisheries management organization in charge of this fishery – the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, ICCAT – has repeatedly failed to sustainably manage this fishery.

Susan Lieberman, director of international policy for the Pew Environment Group said that the decision not to protect Atlantic bluefin tuna is an unfortunate step backwards. This deeply disappointing vote signals a bleak future for this iconic fish.

"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."

Tom Strickland, head of the US delegation said that the vote for a setback for the fish, but that the US will keep fighting to ensure that the fishery is managed sustainably.

Dr Jane Lubchenco from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also confirmed that the US would remain committed to that the ICCAT keeps its commitments to science-based, well enforced management of bluefin tuna.

Oceana, one of the world's largest ocean conservation organisations said that short-term economic interests were put over the long-term health of the ocean and the rebuilding of Atlantic bluefin tuna populations.

Maria Damanaki, Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries and Janez Potočnik, Commissioner for Environment in the European Commission said: "We are disappointed with the outcome of the CITES meeting as regards the EU proposal for a listing in Appendix I of bluefin tuna.

"The EU proposal was a strong commitment towards a sustainable future for the bluefin tuna and for fishermen. We regret that other Parties were not convinced with the merits of such a listing. We remain convinced that stringent measures are needed to ensure the recovery of Atlantic bluefin tuna.

"The European Union remains committed to the objective of safeguarding bluefin tuna stocks and we look to ICCAT to take its responsibility to ensure that stocks are managed in a sustainable way. If action is not taken, there is a very serious danger that the bluefin tuna will no longer exist."