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Colombia Also Agrees On 2 Month IATTC Tuna Fishing Ban

Hopes for the future of the tuna stocks in the Eastern Pacific was raised when also the Colombian government agreed to support an annual two month ban on tuna fishing. Initially Colombia insisted on a staggered ban - being spread per each boat over the period of one year. But in order not to block the IATTC consensus decision making process - and to contribute to a joint tuna conservation effort - the country has compromised on its initial position.

Colombia’s decision means that tuna fishing along the entire Pacific Coast of Latin America will be banned by all nations for two months a year to help protect the world’s tuna stocks.

Tuna fishing in the Eastern Pacific will be banned for 59 days in 2009, 62 days in 2010 and 73 days in 2011.

The ban is part of a series of measures introduced by the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) to avoid the catastrophic collapse of valuable stocks of yellowfin (Thunnus albacares), bigeye (Thunnus obesus) and skipjack (Katsuwonus pelamis) tuna.

Colombia was the last of the 16 nations that make up the IATTC to endorse the measures proposed at the meeting of the Commission in June. The group is made up of 10 Latin American nations and the United States, Japan, Spain, South Korea, France and Vanuatu.

Studies carried out by the IATTC showed a rapid deterioration of tuna populations in the Eastern Pacific Ocean – particularly bigeye – and data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization states that yellowfin tuna has been “fully exploited” in the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans, meaning that stocks are seriously depleted.

Fabio Arjona from Conservation International-Colombia called the agreement “a major step toward the creation of sustainable tuna fisheries in the Pacific.”

“Thousands of Colombians rely on this industry, and this plan shows foresight which should ensure Colombian tuna has a future,” said Arjona.  “It also sends a message to the world that Colombia can be a sound trading partner.”

In 2007, Colombia exported over 61 million dollars worth of tuna – 37 percent of its total fish exports – to the United States, Ecuador, Panama and Japan, among other countries.

Now with the endorsement of the tuna conservation program, Colombia strengthens its position on the marketplace and trade agreements negotiations with the European Union and the United States showing the will to put systems in place to ensure a more sustainable use of the tuna fisheries.

Arjona said the program for conservation of tuna in the Eastern Pacific Ocean is a step in the right direction, but it can only be truly effective if other tuna fisheries adopt the same approach.

“We now need to urge the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission to adopt conservation measures for the tuna stocks in that region,” he said, “and in particular, the shared stocks of migratory tuna in the Pacific Ocean.”