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Update: Fishing countries must respect Doha message on tuna, says WWF


Bluefin Tuna at CITES 2010

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At the close of the world’s largest wildlife trade convention meeting, global conservation organization WWF welcomed the statement today by the regional fisheries management organization in charge of the Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery – the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, ICCAT – that its members should agree and implement a scientifically sound recovery plan for the species when they meet in November in Paris, France.

In a statement in Doha, Qatar, today on the last day of the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), ICCAT chair Dr Fabio Hazin told delegates: “Setting management measures not in line with scientific advice is no longer an option. (...) The commitment to recover bluefin tuna stocks in the Atlantic must be strengthened at ICCAT’s forthcoming meeting in Paris in November.”

WWF welcomed this message from ICCAT, reflecting the commitment to sustainable fisheries management expressed by a number of its member countries at the CITES meeting. Japan also intervened at the end of the CITES meeting, committing to lead a global effort to ensure the recovery of Atlantic bluefin tuna.

“What we have seen here in Doha is a new pro-conservation scenario opening up, paving the way for radical fisheries management overhaul for Atlantic bluefin tuna. WWF echoes the call on ICCAT members to apply the best available science when they meet in November to implement a real recovery plan based on science. The EU, U.S., Norway, Canada and Japan were especially vocal about this in Doha and WWF urges these countries in particular to play a leadership role in the ongoing ICCAT process,” said Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF.

While WWF is disappointed that the proposal to ban international trade was not endorsed by a majority of CITES member countries due to economic and political motives, the acknowledgment by numerous governments of the urgent conservation crisis facing Atlantic bluefin tuna – and the raised profile the species has gained worldwide – are key steps on the road to recovery of the dwindling fish stocks.

The Principality of Monaco had proposed a total ban on international commercial trade in this species through a listing on Appendix I of CITES. Various scientific bodies, including an expert panel of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization – the reference body ruling on the appropriateness of listings at CITES of commercial marine species – have shown that the species amply meets requirements for this listing, with Atlantic bluefin tuna stock levels having fallen to less than 15 per cent of their historical maximum levels.

“This CITES meeting should be a turning point on the road to recovery for Atlantic bluefin tuna, especially given that the biggest bluefin tuna fishing nations on both sides of the Atlantic – the U.S. and EU – were supportive of the international trade ban. They stood ready to sacrifice short-term gain for the long-term survival of a species and a fishing tradition. These concerns must be translated into scientifically based management measures at ICCAT,” said Dr Tudela.

WWF urges ICCAT members to temporarily suspend fishing for Atlantic bluefin tuna to give the species a chance to recover and provide the political courage to follow the science.  The United States [and others…] must lead the charge, as it did in Doha, by making conservation a priority at ICCAT and resist the temptation to focus on fights over quota allocation.

“Only a dramatic cut in fishing quotas, the eradication of illegal fishing, and a stop to purse seine fishing can allow Atlantic bluefin tuna stocks to recover from the decades of overfishing they have endured,” said Dr Tudela.

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