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France Supports International Trade Ban for Endangered Bluefin Tuna

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France today announced his country’s support for a ban of international trade in endangered Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna, joining a growing call to list the overexploited fish under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), WWF reports.


NGS illustration of bluefin tuna by Stanley Meltzoff

“Speaking at the close of a national stakeholder consultation on France’s future sustainable fisheries and maritime policy, the ‘Grenelle de la Mer,’ President Sarkozy said, ‘France supports listing bluefin tuna on the CITES convention to ban international trade,'” WWF said in a statement.

“Ours is the last generation with the ability to take action before it’s too late–we must protect marine resources now, in order to fish better in future.”

— Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France

“Sarkozy put this in the context of France’s support for a broader sustainable fisheries policy. ‘Ours is the last generation with the ability to take action before it’s too late–we must protect marine resources now, in order to fish better in future. We owe this to fishermen, and we owe it to future generations,'”

The Principality of Monaco was first to communicate its willingness to sponsor a proposal to ban international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna, and has this week launched a formal CITES consultation process to seek the support of other range states–countries through whose waters the species swims, WWF added.

“WWF welcomes the Monaco initiative and the position of France, whose fleets have traditionally caught more bluefin tuna than any other country,” said Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean.

“We now urge France to put its words into action and be the first country to formally sign up to Monaco’s proposal for CITES Appendix I, which would ban international trade.

“WWF also appeals to other range states to follow this lead and support the proposal to list Atlantic bluefin on the CITES convention–if they want to give bluefin tuna a break and see a healthy fishery again in years to come. This iconic species is simply at the end of its tether.”

CITES contracting parties meet again in Doha, Qatar in March 2010, but proposals need to be submitted by October 17 to be eligible for consideration at the Conference of the Parties.

Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna is in big trouble, and the fishery is insufficiently policed, WWF said.

“Contributing to the species’ dramatic decline are the huge overcapacity of fishing fleets, catches that far exceed legal quotas, pirate fishing, the use of illegal spotting planes to chase tuna, under-reporting of catch, fishing during the closed season, management measures that disregard scientific advice – all driven by the insatiable appetite of the world’s luxury seafood markets where bluefin tuna fetches record prices.”

“In terms of eligibility for a listing on CITES Appendix I, Atlantic bluefin tuna ticks every box–and then some,” said Susan Lieberman, Director of WWF’s Global Species Programme.

“CITES contracting parties would surely regret failing to protect this commercially overexploited species, and an icon of the oceans, from collapse on their watch – while they have this historic chance.”

“Fisheries managers have failed to get to grips with the complex fiasco of the Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery,” added Tudela, the Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean.

“WWF hopes to see a sustainably managed and thriving fishery in future, but to enable this recovery the species must be given a breather–if the world does not put the brakes on its voracious appetite now, an amazing species and fishery could be lost forever.”