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Bluefin Overexploitation Might Get Tuna On CITES List March 2010

Declining populations of tunas received conservation support from countries bordering the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean this week as governments realize how much damage overfishing has done to the world's tuna stocks.

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France yesterday announced his country’s support for a ban of international trade in endangered Northern Bluefin Tuna, joining a growing call to list the overexploited fish under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, CITES.

Speaking at the close of a national stakeholder consultation on France’s future sustainable fisheries and maritime policy, the “Grenelle de la Mer,” President Sarkozy said, “France supports listing bluefin tuna on the CITES convention to ban international trade.”

Sarkozy put this in the context of France’s support for a broader sustainable fisheries policy. “Ours is the last generation with the ability to take action before it’s too late — we must protect marine resources now, in order to fish better in future. We owe this to fishermen, and we owe it to future generations,” he said.

The Principality of Monaco was first to communicate its willingness to sponsor a proposal to ban international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna, and has this week launched a formal CITES consultation process to seek the support of other range States.

Northern Bluefin Tuna is found in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean and the species is in trouble.
Contributing to the species’ steep decline are the huge overcapacity of fishing fleets, catches that far exceed legal quotas, pirate fishing, the use of illegal spotting planes to chase tuna, under-reporting of catch, fishing during the closed season, management measures that disregard scientific advice — all driven by the insatiable appetite of the world's luxury seafood markets where Northern Bluefin Tuna fetches record prices.

“In terms of eligibility for a listing in CITES Appendix I, Atlantic Bluefin tuna ticks every box and then some,” said Dr. Susan Lieberman, director of WWF’s Global Species Programme.

“CITES contracting parties would surely regret failing to protect this commercially overexploited species, and an icon of the oceans, from collapse on their watch – while they have this historic chance,” she said.

CITES contracting parties next confer in Doha, Qatar March 13-25, 2010, but proposals must be submitted by October 17, 2009 to be eligible for consideration at the Conference of the Parties.