US Will Back International Ban on Bluefin Tuna Trade

bluefin tuna illustration

Without a commercial trade ban, illustrations and photos will be the only Atlantic bluefin tuna the world sees. Image: Wikipedia.

Some good news for critically endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna: The Obama administration says it will back a proposal to place the species in Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, thereby prohibiting further trade. At current fishing rates, bluefin tuna have only a couple of years before becoming extinct.Expressing support for the international trade ban, the Assistant Interior Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks Tom Strickland said,

In light of the serious compliance problems that have plagues the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean fishy and the fact that the 2010 quota level adopted by [the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas] is not as low as we believe is needed, the United States continues to have serious concerns about the long-term viability of either the fish or the fishery. (New York Times)

That said, should ICCAT adopt strong enough quotas to prevent the fish's extinction, the US would reconsider support for a CITES ban. Official estimates of Atlantic blue fin tuna place catch levels at four times levels sufficient to allow the species to recover.

WWF was quick to congratulate the US on the policy stance:

The US has a vested interest in this issue, as a fishing nation of Atlantic bluefin tuna--so if the US can see the bigger picture and back the international trade ban proposal for the long-term survival of a species and a fishery, all countries can and should do the same.

The proposed ban, initiated by Monaco last fall, has received the support of the UK and France, with Greece, Spain and Malta opposing it on the grounds that their fishing industries will suffer.

Perhaps more importantly though, Japan--which consumes 80% of the world's bluefin catch--has said it will not go along with an international ban.

The decision to list the species on Appendix 1 will be taken at the 15th conference of CITES, to be held March 13-25 in Qatar.

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