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European Union backs tuna trade ban

Conservation groups applauded a decision today by the 27-nation European Union (EU) to support a ban on international commercial trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna, to be voted on at a wildlife trade convention starting this weekend. (175 governments weigh stricter controls over wildlife trade)

The EU said it would vote to list Atlantic bluefin tuna on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), joining a growing list of supporting countries, including the United States of America, the Switzerland-based conservation charity WWF said in a news statement. (Nations wrestle over ban on tuna trade.)

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NGS illustration by Stanley Meltzoff 

“WWF welcomes the EU announcement, which will give this devastated species the possibility to recover,” said Sergi Tudela, head of fisheries at WWF Mediterranean. “Other governments must back the ban when they meet for CITES later this week.”

“The EU is a major trade and development partner in many key regions of the world, and some countries may have been hanging back on Atlantic bluefin tuna to see what the Europeans would decide to do,” Tudela said.

“With the two largest holders of bluefin tuna fishing quota on either side of the Atlantic–the U.S. and EU–now supporting the trade ban, other countries should follow suit,” Tudela said.

The EU is backing exemptions for traditional fishers, and deferring the ban for a year, BBC News reported.  

“Our only remaining concern is that we do not understand the continuing need on the part of the EU for conditions to be attached to the Appendix I listing. WWF believes this trade ban should be implemented immediately, without conditions or delay.

“The EU must now push for widespread support of this proposal during the CITES meeting,” Tudela said.

The proposal to list Atlantic bluefin tuna on CITES Appendix I was submitted by the Principality of Monaco in October. Atlantic bluefin tuna is at serious risk of commercial extinction because of decades of unsustainable and illegal fishing in the Mediterranean Sea, driven by demand from Japan’s luxury seafood markets, WWF said.

“The eligibility of Atlantic bluefin tuna for the CITES Appendix I listing proposal is backed by independent experts including a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization panel, and the scientific committee of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the regional fisheries management organization in charge of this fishery.”

The 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP 15) will take place March 13-25 in Doha, Qatar. The Convention is an international agreement between governments that aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival in the wild.