EU breakthrough on bluefin

Posted by Willie — 8 September 2009 at 7:22pm - Comments

Breaking news just in from Brussels - despite all the doubts and concerns some of us have harboured over the past few weeks, it seems the EU Commission is throwing its weight squarely behind the call for an international ban on the trade of Atlantic bluefin tuna!

This is big news - actually let's make that BIG NEWS.

It means that for once, the interests of fishing have been trumped by environmental concerns in the EU. If the member states agree to support this proposal (which they will need to do by a ¾ majority at a meeting of the CITES* Management Committee on September 21st), it means that a block of 27 countries will have voted both for a ban on international trade, and to have the species officially listed as 'threatened with extinction' at the next CITES meeting in Doha, in March.

The news follows announcements of support from France, the UK, Netherlands, Austria, Poland and Germany – but it was not all plain sailing. Malta has vehemently opposed a ban on bluefin trade, and other big players, particularly those countries with big bluefin business interests like Spain and Italy, have been very cool on the idea.

But the big EU heroes here are Monaco, the world's first bluefin-free country, who came up with the proposal in the first place – moving bluefin tuna from the incompetent hands of fisheries managers, and into the same protected status as similarly endangered animals like tigers or rhinos on land.

Public pressure has also played a huge role, with the End Of The Line (go see the movie!), national treasures like Stephen Fry and Joanna Lumley,  and all of you who have taken the tuna pledge helping to make sure the plight of bluefin tuna is an issue politicians can't avoid.

But there is still a long way to go before bluefin are in the clear. Other countries are not so keen on a ban in trade, and we know that Japan is already trying to fight a CITES listing with intensive lobbying. And we have still to hear from other countries like the US and Brazil, who hold a lot of influence.

There is also a meeting of ICCAT, the managing body currently responsible for Atlantic tuna which has been branded an 'international disgrace', coming up in November – which will surely do everything it can to avoid losing the control of the species to CITES.

And of course, the position of irresponsible restaurateurs like Nobu, who are still unapologetically serving up bluefin as sushi, has become even more untenable. 

So, looking back, I’m on the way to getting my wish for 2009, but for bluefin tuna, one of the world's most spectacular animals, there is still a long way to go…

* CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival and it accords varying degrees of protection to more than 33,000 species of animals and plants.

About Willie

Hi, I'm Willie, I work with Greenpeace on all things ocean-related

Twitter: @williemackenzie

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