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.