CITES fails to protect Atlantic bluefin tuna

Press Release Date: March 22, 2010

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: | tel.: Marta Madina

Oceana, the world’s largest ocean conservation organization, released the following statement from campaigner María José Cornax today following the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species’ (CITES) failure to protect Atlantic bluefin tuna at the 15th Conference of the Parties: “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”. 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. “However not everything is lost. There’s a small chance that the proposal is brought up during the debates again”, added Cornax. About Atlantic Bluefin Tuna and CITES: From March 13 to 25, representatives from 175 countries are meeting in Doha, Qatar, for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species’ (CITES) 15th Conference of the Parties. During these two weeks, countries will decide on the inclusion of Atlantic bluefin tuna in CITES Appendix I. An Appendix I listing would ban international trade of the species. Atlantic bluefin tuna is one of the world’s most valuable fish species and is highly traded in international markets. The demand for international trade and resulting overfishing has driven Atlantic bluefin tuna to the edge of extinction. This top predator has been traditionally harvested in the Eastern Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. However, in recent decades an industrial fishing fleet has been widely developed, fuelled by government subsidies. This industry has also been characterised by high percentages of catch misreporting and illegal fishing, leading to higher levels of overfishing. The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas’ (ICCAT) Standing Committee of Research and Statistics (SCRS) has estimated that the North Atlantic bluefin tuna spawning biomass has been decimated to less than 15 percent of its unfished biomass, with the sharpest decline occurring in the last decade. Bluefin tuna meets the criterion C “marked decline” for inclusion in CITES Appendix I as a species endangered with extinction.