Last chance for Atlantic Bluefin Tuna

by Guest Blogger

March 15, 2010

CITES, the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species, is meeting this week in Doha, Qatar. The star of this meeting is Atlantic Bluefin Tuna – and the big question is whether or not CITES will be able to give this species the protection that regional fisheries management organizations (RFMO) have not been able to give.

Some major fishing nations, like Japan (who also happens to be the main consumer of the species) have been saying that CITES should not be managing fish stocks, that this is a job for RFMOs. They’re right. CITES isn’t going to be managing the stock, it’s going to try to save it.

bluelfin tuna
The RFMO in charge of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna is ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas). Their idea of management is actually closer to a free for all:

ICCAT and its contracting parties, in particular EU and Mediterranean countries that take most of the catch, have repeatedly rejected scientific recommendations to limit catch quotas and protect spawning grounds.

ICCAT’s own scientists have been sounding the alarm on the dire state of bluefin stocks for over a decade. From 2006, they recommended catch quotas of no more than 15,000 tonnes – and no fishing at all in spawning grounds during crucial breeding seasons (May and June). Not only did bluefin fishing nations such as France, Spain and Italy and others reject this advice but they actually started to build bigger, more efficient fishing vessels.

CITES – Last chance for bluefin tuna. (PDF)

The fact that a listing on Annex I of CITES (an Annex that essentially stops all international trade) is necessary shows the failure of ICCAT to actually manage this stock sustainably. It’s a dire indictment showing that the fate of an entire species has for too long be left in the hands of a body that does not do its job properly.

Interestingly, the proposal put forward by Monaco enhances the need for cooperation between ICCAT and CITES and supports a delisting of the species when the stocks have recovered AND when ICCAT demonstrates its ability to manage the fishery properly.

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna is in danger of being depleted beyond recovery. CITES can save it.


– Posted by Juliette


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