Conservationists condemn rejection of ban on bluefin tuna trade

Discussion of a proposal to ban international commercial trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna was cut short today at the largest wildlife trade convention when an immediate vote was pushed through, the conservation charity WWF reported. (Nations wrestle over ban on tuna trade)

“Member governments of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) chose to vote today on the proposal. 72 out of 129 CITES members voted against the trade ban, 43 voted in favor, with 14 abstentions,” WWF said. (175 governments weigh stricter controls over wildlife trade)

“After overwhelming scientific justification and growing political support in past months–with backing from the majority of catch quota holders on both sides of the Atlantic–it is scandalous that governments did not even get the chance to engage in meaningful debate about the international trade ban proposal for Atlantic bluefin tuna,” said Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean and observer at the CITES Conference of the Parties in Doha.

“The regional fisheries management organization in charge of this fishery–the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, ICCAT –has repeatedly failed to sustainably manage this fishery,” Tudela added. “ICCAT has so far failed miserably in this duty so every pressure at the highest level must come to bear to ensure it does what it should.”

WWF said it would “proactively call on restaurants, retailers, chefs and consumers around the world to stop selling, serving, buying and eating this endangered species. Already a growing body of the global seafood market sector is choosing to avoid Atlantic bluefin tuna to give the exhausted fish stocks a chance of recovery.”

“It is now more important than ever for people to do what the politicians failed to do–stop consuming bluefin tuna.”

“It is now more important than ever for people to do what the politicians failed to do–stop consuming bluefin tuna,” Tudela said.

“Sad Day for the World”

“Today is a sad day for the world.,” said National Geographic Fellow and Emerging Explorer Enric Sala. “The international community has shown once more its inability to deal with a real crisis.

“The bluefin tuna is being driven to extinction in our lifetimes by commercial hunting. An ocean without bluefin tuna would be like Africa without lions.”

“Deeply disappointing vote”

The CITES committee vote not to protect Atlantic bluefin tuna is an unfortunate step backwards, Susan Lieberman, director of international policy for the Pew Environment Group, said in a statement. “This deeply disappointing vote signals a bleak future for this iconic fish,” she said.

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“This meeting presented a golden opportunity for governments to take a stand against overfishing, and too many governments failed to do so. The Atlantic bluefin tuna will not receive the protections of a suspension in international trade that it so desperately needs. The market for this fish is just too lucrative and the pressure from fishing interests too great, for enough governments to support a truly sustainable future for the fish.

“Today’s vote puts the fate of Atlantic bluefin tuna back in the hands of ICCAT, the very body that drove the species to the disastrous state it is now in. Despite past failures, we call upon ICCAT and its member governments to learn from the debate here at CITES and understand that the long-term viability of the fishing industries they regulate depends on the long-term survival of the fish,” Lieberman said.

Ocean conservation organization Oceana released the following statement from senior campaign director Dave Allison:

“In a clear win by short-term economic interest over the long-term health of the ocean and the rebuilding of Atlantic bluefin tuna populations and fishery, CITES today voted to deny prohibition of the international trade of the species.

“In an additional attack on transparency of action by the international community, Iceland called for a secret vote that prevented the countries votes from being disclosed.

“Although there were repeated calls from delegates from the E.U., U.S. and Monaco to allow time for parties to meet and arrive at a compromise position, a Libya delegate forced a preemptory vote on the E.U. proposal, which resulted in a 43 to 72 vote, with 14 abstaining. The final vote on the Monaco proposal was 20 to 68, with 30 abstaining.”


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More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn