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Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Trade Ban Fails

WWF Calls for Boycott as Population Plummets

WASHINGTON, DC, March 18, 2010 – World Wildlife Fund is dismayed that discussion of a long-awaited proposal to ban international commercial trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna was cut short today at the world’s largest wildlife trade convention when an immediate vote was pushed through.

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. The US delegation voted in favor of the ban.

Once the Principality of Monaco had tabled the proposal this afternoon and a number of countries had given brief interventions, Libya called for an immediate vote on the proposal.

 “It is scandalous that governments did not even get the chance to engage in meaningful debate on this proposal given the overwhelming scientific justification and growing political support in past months,” said Mark Stevens, WWF senior program officer for Fisheries. “This proposal had backing from the majority of catch quota holders on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Atlantic bluefin tuna is at serious risk of commercial extinction because of decades of unsustainable and illegal fishing in the Mediterranean Sea, driven by demand from the luxury seafood markets in Japan. Currently about 40,000 tons of Atlantic bluefin tuna are caught every year, well over four times the amount of fish that scientists say can be taken to avoid population collapse. The CITES proposal would have banned all international commercial trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna, giving this imperiled species a chance to recover to sustainable levels.

“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,” said Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean and observer at the CITES Conference of the Parties in Doha. “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 will 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 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,” Tudela said.

Last year, the Principality of Monaco – the CITES member country that submitted the proposal for a CITES Appendix I listing of the species –became the first country in the world to be entirely bluefin tuna free. WWF is urging other countries to follow suit.