Monday, March 15, 2010

A critical vote for Bluefin Tuna....

In the next few days. the Convention in international Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, will vote on listing the endangered Bluefin Tuna onto 'Appendices 1' - the highest level of protection afforded to species that essentially bans commercial trade except for strict scientific purposes. The treaty, among 175 countries, provides an enforceable tool to prevent the depletion and eventual disappearance of species subject to trade. It limits or prohibits international trafficking in plants and animals that are at risk owing to such trade. If populations recover and sustainable use can be demonstrated, restrictions may be removed.

The debate at the latest meeting in Doha has centered on a move to impose a total ban on the fishing of bluefin tuna. Numbers of the fish have plummeted in the past decades with estimates of up to 90 percent of Atlantic stocks being lost as the result of over fishing. Reports range between 18% and 28% of Atlantic bluefin remaining in the sea others estimate that there are fewer than 10% remaining from historical levels. The best hope for the Bluefin is to be put on the CITES Appendix I list of worldwide trade banning.

The move, tabled by Monaco, is being fiercely contested by Japan, where 80 percent of the world’s bluefin tuna is consumed. The EU and the US have (somewhat surprisingly) unified behind the proposal. In Japan, Bluefin is the mainstay of the high grade sashimi industry, with prices for a single fish able to reach upwards of $100,000.

Other species including several sharks and polar bears are on the agenda at CITES. Eight species of sharks will be considered for a Appendices 2 level of protection that does not ban trade but requires export permits once trade is confirmed to be legal and sustainable. As many as 73 million sharks are killed every year for their fins. This will be an important step in pushing towards systems that can monitor and conserve shark species.

This is a critical weekend for marine conservation and the potential use of a non fishery management approach to regulate a commercial marine species. It is a radical approach - taking fishery management from regimes that have failed to restore stocks, and moving it to a broader system based on regulating trade - it may be the Bluefin tuna's last chance.


  1. Latest from Doha (from Google news):

    Bluefin tuna: Japan 'lobbying' blasted at CITES talks

    DOHA — Japan was accused of scare tactics at world talks on wildlife protection on Monday as it campaigned against a proposal to curb trade in bluefin tuna, the succulent sushi delicacy.

    The 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meeting until March 25, is gearing up to vote on banning commerce in bluefin from the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic, a motion that requires a two-thirds majority to pass.

    So far, fewer than 40 of the approximately 150 countries in Doha have declared their intention to back the move.

    "It is very much up in the air. There's a lot of jockeying," said Patrick Van Klaveren of Monaco, which is leading the charge for a ban.

    "Japan's lobbying is formidable. Three or four people from the Japanese delegation are constantly criss-crossing the Convention, arranging meetings," he told AFP.

    On Sunday, Japanese delegates met with some African nations, said a negotiator from west Africa.

    "We are used to it. They do the same thing before each meeting of the International Whaling Commission," the body that oversees global whale populations, he said.

    Van Klaveren said that Tokyo was also targeting developing countries, "scaring them about what could happen to their (own tuna) stocks, along the lines of 'your turn will come'."

    Monaco's proposal entails placing Atlantic- and Mediterranean-caught bluefin under Appendix I of the CITES rulebook, meaning fish caught in those sea areas could not be sold internationally.

    Even though it would not affect bluefin caught in the Pacific, "the Pacific island nations and Asia are also quite sensitive" to Japan's arguments, said van Klaveren.

    Tokyo has vowed to fight the moratorium, saying it would ignore any such measure voted into place.

    In Seoul on Thursday, the Japanese vice farm minister, Masahiko Yamada, pressed his South Korean counterpart to support Japan's position.

    "The Tokyo side made sure that Seoul will continue cooperating with Japan on this issue," Yamada said in a statement.

    Tunisia, with major bluefin fisheries in the Mediterranean, is also working the halls in Doha, hoping to muster support from the 22 Arab League nations against the proposal, NGOs said.

    A delegate from Tunis denied this. "We have expressed our position, but have done nothing to encourage other countries to share it," Khaled Zahlah told AFP.

    Van Klaveren voiced regret that the EU had not taken a stronger stand.

    But it has asked for implementation to be postponed until a November meeting of ICAAT, the inter-governmental fishery group that manages tuna stocks in the Atlantic Ocean and adjacent seas.

    "The EU is not very active. It is absorbed by its own internal negotiations," Van Klaveren complained.

    The rotating EU presidency is currently held by Spain which, along with France and Italy, accounts for 50 percent of Mediterranean bluefin catches.

    Norway, Switzerland, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Serbia also support the bluefin moratorium, he added.


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