Greenpeace: CITES is last chance to save bluefin tuna from commercial extinction

Press release - 23 August, 2009
Greenpeace welcomes the announcement today by Germany that it supports Monaco’s proposal for international trade of bluefin tuna to be banned under the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

With France, the UK, the Netherlands and Germany announcing their backing of the Monaco proposal to suspend international trade in bluefin tuna, four of the big EU players have put their cards on the table. Together the four countries form a strong alliance with power to sway opinion and almost one third of the votes in council. Sweden, who currently hosts the EU presidency, had itself proposed a total trade ban for the western bluefin tuna population in 1992 and should welcome the fact that CITES is finally asked to take action.

"Greenpeace welcomes the call by Germany, France, Monaco and the UK ban trade of bluefin tuna under CITES" said Sebastian Losada, Greenpeace International oceans political advisor. "The situation for bluefin is so bad that we need a ban on international trade in the species to prevent the fishery collapsing in the same way as the Newfoundland Cod did. The main responsibility for this failure lies at ICCAT's door - its gross mismanagement of bluefin has led this iconic species to be endangered - it is now time to give it trade protection under CITES."

The International Commission of the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), has consistently failed to listen to the science and sustainably manage bluefin quotas or regulate fishing of the tuna species, now governments must turn to other conventions to give vital protection before it's too late.(1)

Last year a panel of experts released an independent performance review of ICCAT (2) that recommended "the suspension of fishing on bluefin tuna in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean", adding that the "management of the bluefin tuna fishery in the Mediterranean is widely seen as an international disgrace."

Greenpeace believes that EU and Mediterranean fishing countries should bear the brunt of the criticism for having taken bluefin to the brink of collapse, adding that the countries have placed again and again the short term financial gain ahead of the long-term survival of the species and of the livelihood of fishermen that depend on it.(3) Greenpeace calls on all countries that are party to CITES to support the listing the bluefin tuna.

Since 2006, scientists have been ringing the alarm bell on the dire state of the bluefin tuna stock, advising that fisheries be held below a maximum of 15,000 tonnes and to protect the species' spawning grounds during the crucial months of May and June. However, the spawning grounds are rampaged by industrial fleets every year, and the actual haul has been estimated at 61,100 tonnes in 2007 - twice the agreed legal catch, and more than four times the recommended level to avoid collapse of the bluefin tuna population. In 2008, a 'recovery plan' for bluefin tuna still allowed legal fishing that is 47% above the upper sustainable limit.(4)

"Besides the prohibition of international trade, the remaining bluefin tuna population must be given a chance to replenish through the permanent fishing closure of the species' breeding grounds", says François Provost, oceans campaigner at Greenpeace International.

Greenpeace advocates the creation of a network of no-take marine reserves, protecting 40% of the world's oceans, as the long term solution to the overfishing of tuna and other species, and for the recovery of our overexploited oceans.

Notes to editor: (1) CITES contracting parties will meet in Doha, Qatar, 13-25 March 2010.

(2) The panel consisted of Glenn Hurry, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) and the current Chairman of the WCPFC, Moritaka Hayashi, Professor (now emeritus) of International Law, Waseda University in Japan, and Jean-Jacques Maguire, a well known and respected international fisheries scientist from Canada."

Independent performance review report at: http://www.iccat.int/Documents/Meetings/Docs/Comm/PLE-106-ENG.pdf

(3) See the Greenpeace submission to ICCAT 2008: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/ICCAT-16

(4) In November 2008 at the 16th Special Meeting of ICCAT, the European Union extracted an agreement on

Total Allowable Catch of 22,000 tonnes for the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery in 2009.

See ICCAT Rec 08-05 - Recommendation amending the recommendation by ICCAT to establish a multiannual recovery plan for bluefin tuna in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean: http://www.iccat.int/Documents/Recs/compendiopdf-e/2008-05-e.pdf

Report from the Standing Committee on Research and Statistics (SCRS): http://www.iccat.int/Documents/SCRS/ExecSum/BFT_EN.pdf

Other contacts: Sebastian Losada, oceans political advisor at Greenpeace International, + 34 626 998 254

François Provost, oceans campaigner at Greenpeace International, + 33 623 590 963

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