Atlantic bluefin tuna trade ban supported by fishery's scientists

Joint press release by Greenpeace and WWF

Press release - 29 October, 2009
Atlantic bluefin tuna meets the criteria for a ban on international trade, according to global scientists of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). This official assessment of bluefin's extreme stock decline has been welcomed by major environment groups WWF and Greenpeace.

The scientists met in Madrid, Spain (21-23 October) to assess current stock status of Atlantic bluefin tuna against the specific criteria necessary to list a species under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

ICCAT's scientists estimate that the current spawning biomass is less than 15 per cent of what it once was before fishing began - meaning Atlantic bluefin tuna meets the criteria for a CITES Appendix I listing.

Further, the scientists' analyses confirmed that a suspension of commercial fishing is the only measure with a substantial chance of ensuring that the stock no longer meets the criteria for CITES Appendix I by 2019.

"What's needed to save the stocks is a suspension of fishing activity and a suspension of international commercial trade - this is the only possible package that can give this fish a chance to recover," said Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean. "We must stop mercilessly exploiting this fragile natural resource until stocks show clear signs of rebound and until sustainable management and control measures are firmly put in place."

On 14 October the Principality of Monaco submitted a CITES Appendix I listing proposal to temporarily ban international commercial trade and allow the species to recover from years of ineffective fisheries management and control.

"The ICCAT scientists have made formal what we have been saying all along - that Atlantic bluefin tuna is balancing precariously on the edge of collapse, and only drastic measures can now ensure this endangered species gets a fighting chance of recovery," added Sebastian Losada, Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace International. "The extent of the failure by ICCAT members to act responsibly and preserve our marine environment can no longer be ignored. Atlantic bluefin tuna has been subject to decades of massive overfishing and overexploitation and time is running out to save this species."

"Independent of what ICCAT decides to do in November, the science is undeniable that Atlantic bluefin tuna meets the criteria for a suspension of trade through a CITES Appendix I listing - and if ICCAT stops the fishing too, so much the better for this species," added Sergi Tudela of WWF.

WWF and Greenpeace urge ICCAT to impose a zero quota at the organization's next annual meeting on 6-16 November in Recife, Brazil. Interest will focus on what ICCAT does with the advice of its own scientists; in the past, the advice of ICCAT's scientists has been largely disregarded.

The verdict from ICCAT's scientific committee will be submitted to the 48 Contracting Parties when they meet in Recife. The next Conference of the Parties of CITES, meanwhile, is in Doha, Qatar, in March 2010, when WWF and Greenpeace are calling on the 175 CITES member countries to vote in favour of an Atlantic bluefin tuna Appendix I listing.

Other contacts: Gemma Parkes, WWF Mediterranean
+39 346 387 3237

Sebastian Losada, Greenpeace
+ 34 626 998 254

Notes: Summary of the ICCAT scientists' report of 21-23 October. This guide has been developed by WWF, Greenpeace and The Pew Environment Group, all of which participated in the ICCAT scientific committee meetings.

The final unedited version of the ICCAT scientists' report - and tuna footage, photos - are available on request.