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The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in session. (Photo: CITES)

CITES rejects bluefin trade ban

Friday, March 19, 2010, 03:00 (GMT + 9)

The United Nations (UN) body overseeing commerce in endangered wildlife on Thursday rejected a proposal to outlaw international trade in eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna, a sushi mainstay in Japan.
The controversial proposal for so-called Appendix I status was quashed with 68 votes against, 20 in favour and 30 abstentions at a meeting in Doha of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
The measure would have needed the support of two-thirds of the nations present to pass.
Bluefin tuna stocks in the Atlantic and Mediterranean have crashed, with populations declining by up to 80 percent from only three or four decades ago.
Japan, which buys three-quarters of the global catch of bluefin tuna, lobbied successfully in Doha and elsewhere to block the proposal, put forward by Monaco and backed by the United States and the European Union (EU). 

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An EU proposal that would have delayed the Appendix I listing by 18 months was likewise rejected by an even wider margin: 72 "no" votes, 43 "yes" and 24 abstentions.
Anticipating a possible defeat, Monaco was set to table amendments to its proposal, while Europe -- backed by Norway -- was poised to call for the formation of a working group to hammer out a compromise.
But in a procedural move, Libya short-circuited the debate and called for an up-or-down vote on the original proposition.
"This is very disappointing and very irresponsible," said Sue Lieberman, policy director for the Pew Environment Group in Washington.
"The fate of tuna is now, once again, in the hands of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT)," she said. 
"This is the very body that drove the species to the disastrous state it is in now" by failing to enforce its own quotas, she added.

Van Kaveren recalled that in 1992, an Atlantic bluefin ban proposed by Sweden was withdrawn from CITES on the strength of promises from ICCAT of stricter oversight.

"The result is that the reproductive capacity has dropped from 200,000 to 60,000 in 20 years, tunas are half as small, and illegal fishing has tripled," he said.
Other observers criticised the way the vote unfolded, and suggested that CITES should review is rules of engagement.
"It is scandalous that governments did not even get the chance to engage in meaningful debate," said Sergi Tudela, head of fisheries at WWF Mediterranean, and an official CITES observer. 


Related articles:

- France opposes immediate tuna ban: Kouchner
- Bluefin tuna: Japanese 'lobbying' blasted at CITES talks
- Strict tuna conservation measures preferred over trade ban
- Japanese protest proposed tuna trade ban

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