Scientists with the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) say that the Atlantic bluefin tuna meets criteria for an international trade ban, due to an extreme decline in the stock of the popular sushi fish. Groups working for sustainable fisheries, such as Greenpeace and WWF, support the commission’s statement.
“Whatâ€™s needed to save the stocks is a suspension of fishing activity and a suspension of international commercial trade â€“ this is the only possible package that can give this fish a chance to recover. We must stop mercilessly exploiting this fragile natural resource until stocks show clear signs of rebound and until sustainable management and control measures are firmly put in place.” – Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean
The ICCAT scientists held a meeting in Madrid, Spain, in order to look at the current status of the Atlantic bluefin as it relates to the criteria necessary for listing the species in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). They found that the spawning biomass for bluefin is only 15% of its original level (before commercial fishing began), which would make it eligible for listing under the trade ban.
“The ICCAT scientists have made formal what we have been saying all along â€“ that Atlantic bluefin tuna is balancing precariously on the edge of collapse, and only drastic measures can now ensure this endangered species gets a fighting chance of recovery.” – Sebastian Losada, Oceans Campaigner, Greenpeace International
The analyses by the scientists also confirmed that suspending commercial fishing for the Atlantic bluefin is the only action possible with a substantial chance of ensuring that the species no longer meets the criteria for CITES by 2019.
The environmental groups Greenpeace and WWF are asking the ICCAT to propose a zero catch quota when the commission meets again in Brazil in November. Once the organization’s scientific committee reaches a verdict, it will go to the 48 Contracting Parties. However, according to WWF, past advice from ICCAT scientists has been disregarded, so even a verdict of proposing a trade ban on the species may not have any effect.
WWF and Greenpeace plan to call on the 175 member countries of CITES to vote in favor of an Appendix I listing at the next Conference of the Parties in Qatar in March 2010.
“Not only does the fate of this magnificent species hang in the balance but so does the future of our commercial and recreational fisheries.” – Phil Kline, senior oceans campaigner with Greenpeace and former commercial fisherman