Countries meeting in Qatar this week to discuss endangered species have rejected a ban on international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna, whose numbers are plummeting toward oblivion. The vote at the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) meeting is a great disappointment for wildlife advocates.
A couple of weeks ago it appeared that Japan was the chief obstructionist on the bluefin issue—but the vote on a trade ban (20 in favor, 68 against) makes it clear that many countries tacitly agree with Japan’s position that a CITES listing is too much, too soon, despite the gravity of the fish’s situation. According to Juliet Eilperin on the Post Carbon blog at the Washington Post:
No one questions that Atlantic bluefin populations—which are prized for their rich, buttery taste—have plummeted in recent years. Over the past half-century, the adult population of eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna has declined 74 percent. Much of the decline has come in the past decade. In the western Atlantic, the population has dropped 82 percent in 40 years. The declines came even as bluefin fishing was being governed by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), which sets catch quotas for the fish and is supposed to curtail illegal fishing.
But some countries, including Japan and Libya, argued there was no need to impose an outright trade ban when ICCAT officials have the option of making further cuts in bluefin tuna catch quotas.
What are the chances of that? Tom Laskawy at Grist implies they’re slim to none in a post titled “Nations Now Free to Fish Bluefin Tuna to Extinction”:
Ah, the ICCAT, or as marine biologist Carl Safina likes to call it, the International Conspiracy to Catch All Tunas. The ICCAT has repeatedly overruled its own scientists to set catch quotas far above sustainable levels. In fact, ICCAT’s scientists recently came out in support of the trade ban just rejected at the CITES meeting. The only thing the ICCAT seems able to manage is the Atlantic bluefin’s destruction.
I’m keeping an ear to the ground at the CITES meeting by reading the blog of journalist Charles Clover, whose book and the film it inspired, both titled The End of the Line, powerfully describe the bluefin tuna’s plight. Clover is at the CITES gathering and blogging daily on fishing issues.
(Thanks, Civil Eats.)