UK joins calls for ban on Atlantic bluefin tuna trade

Atlantic bluefin tuna

WWF estimate that 50 per cent of Atlantic bluefin tuna is being caught illegally (Brian J Skerry/NG Image Collection)

The UK has joined growing European support for Atlantic Bluefin tuna to be declared an endangered species to prevent collapse

The UK has followed France and Italy in calling for an international ban on the commercial fishing of Atlantic Bluefin tuna.
UK fisheries Minister, Huw Irranca-Davies said the UK is committed to ensuring Bluefin tuna is put on the endangered species list at a UN meeting on the trade in endangered species later this year.
‘The situation of the Bluefin tuna is clearly exceptional, both in terms of the decline of the species and the failure of international effort to halt and reverse those declines. The UK will work tirelessly to secure the adoption of the Appendix I listing in Doha,’ Irranca-Davies has said.
The Atlantic Bluefin tuna, which is found in both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, is believed to be on the verge of collapse. A recent report by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas’ (ICCAT) estimated current stocks were less than 15 per cent of their pre-industrial fishing size.

Japanese trade

It is estimated that around 80 to 90 per cent of Bluefin tuna caught is exported to Japan, where a single fish can sell for as much as 150 thousand dollars. 
The valuable trade in Atlantic Bluefin has led to a proliferation of purse seiner fishing vessels in Europe, which use bag-like nets to trap large schools of Atlantic bluefin and are more likely to catch undersized fish.
‘Purse seiners are totally indiscriminate. We analysed official catch data showing that the largest catch size has almost halved, Atlantic bluefin are increasingly being caught before they spawn,’ said Gemma Parkes of WWF.
WWF said much of the Atlantic bluefin fishing was illegal. 
‘It is estimated that 50 per cent is being caught illegally, whether that be without quota, catching undersized fish or using illegal spotter planes that radio where the fish are to the vessels, Parkes added.
The initial proposal to ban the trade in Atlantic Bluefin came from Monaco in July 2009. It has since been followed by other European countries including France and Italy which both have major Atlantic Bluefin tuna fisheries. 
Spain, which has the largest percentage of the bluefin quota, and which holds the rotating EU presidency has so far not declared their position. 
The UN meeting on the trade in endangered species, The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), takes place in Qatar from 13 to 25 March 2010.

Useful links

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

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