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World Wildlife Fund Welcomes US Support for International Trade Ban on Atlantic Bluefin Tuna

Immediate Implementation of the Ban Will Help Save this Highly Prized Species from Extinction

WASHINGTON, DC, March 3, 2010 – World Wildlife Fund (WWF) officials said they welcomed today’s announcement that the United States government will vote for a ban on international commercial trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna during the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the world’s largest wildlife trade meeting which takes place later this month.

Joining a growing list of countries that support such a ban, the US Government’s Department of the Interior announced today that it would vote to list the Atlantic bluefin tuna on Appendix I of CITES. Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances. In addition, the U.S. is not asking for any conditions or delays of the ban – unlike France and the European Commission.

“This is a huge boost to international efforts to save this species from extinction and retain a vital commercial fishery,” said Mark Stevens, WWF’s senior program officer for Fisheries Conservation.  “All countries should now back this ban and realize that it makes both conservation and commercial sense.”

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 stock collapse. An Appendix I listing would ban all international commercial trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna, giving this endangered species a chance to recover to sustainable levels.

“WWF now urges EU member countries to follow the US lead and drop any conditions in their own backing for the international trade ban, and calls on all CITES members to support the Appendix I proposal at the Doha Conference of the Parties,” said Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF’s Mediterranean office. “The time to save Atlantic bluefin tuna is now, and with a concerted global effort, we can do this.”

The proposal to list Atlantic bluefin tuna on CITES Appendix I was submitted by the Principality of Monaco in October. The listing proposal is backed by countries including major Mediterranean fishing nations such as France and Italy, as well as the European Commission and Parliament.

The 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP 15) will take place March 13-25 in Doha, Qatar.

The Convention is an international agreement between governments that aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival in the wild.

Learn more:

  • Atlantic Bluefin Tuna
  • CITES