EU recommends tuna fishing ban - with strings

Posted: 23 February 2010

There has been a cautious welcome to the EU Commission's recommendation today that the 27 European Union member countries vote for a ban on international commercial trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna.

The ban would be achieved through a listing on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) at next month's meeting in Doha, Qatar.

But WWF is concerned about the Commission's proposal that entry into force of the ban would be conditional on new analysis, a procedure which is 'neither scientifically justified nor allowed under the CITES rules'.

Bluefin tuna
Bluefin tuna. © M San Felix

"Backing for the ban of international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna is growing by the day and this latest announcement from the Commission confirms this", said Dr Sergi Tudela, WWF's tuna expert. "WWF is pleased to see this growing support but the conditional delay proposed the EU Commission is simply not allowed by CITES - and neither is it scientifically justifiable. The only real choice, if the fishery is to be saved, is to support full implementation of the ban as soon as possible to ensure the species has a chance to recover."

After today's recommendation in Brussels by the newly appointed European Commissioner for Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, and Environment Commissioner Janez Potoènik, the last remaining step to galvanise a formal EU bloc voting position in Doha will be at a European Council meeting between representatives of all 27 EU member state governments. This could happen as late as 15 March - after the opening of the CITES event - but is expected to closely reflect today's recommendation from the Commission.

WWF calls on European representatives to drop the conditional implementation proposal and urgently engage the support of the global community for the listing of Atlantic bluefin tuna on CITES Appendix I, which requires the backing of two thirds of the 175 CITES member countries present to be adopted.

If the biggest Atlantic bluefin tuna fishing nation in the world, France, and the EU - whose fishing industry has the highest stakes in this fishery, holding more than 50 per cent of total catch quota - can decide to support a CITES Appendix I listing for the sake of preserving the fishery and the tuna, Europe should be able to convince the rest of the international community to follow", said Dr Tudela.

Others to have made public their support for Monaco's proposal to list Atlantic bluefin tuna on Appendix I of CITES include the European Parliament and the secretariat of CITES itself.

At the end of 2009 both the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization expert panel and the scientific committee of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the body in charge of managing the Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery, released analyses showing that the species amply fits requirements for an Appendix I listing.