Japan, Canada and several Arab League countries yesterday (18 March) rejected a proposal to effectively suspend international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna until stocks are no longer threatened with extinction.
They argued that the decline of bluefin tuna stocks would be best tackled by regional fisheries management organisations such as the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). They also argued that banning trade "would not stop the fishing of the species" anyway.
Only the United States, Norway and Kenya supported the original proposal for an immediate ban. The EU asked for implementation of the trade ban to be delayed until May 2011 to give authorities time to respond to concerns about overfishing (EurActiv 11/03/10).
The amendment introduced by the EU and Monaco was defeated, with 20 votes in favour, 68 against and 30 abstentions "in the middle of much confusion about the voting procedures and mixed feelings of satisfaction and frustration from participants," CITES said in a statement.
The EU executive said it was "disappointed with the outcome" and now looks to the inter-governmental fishery organisation responsible for the conservation of tuna (ICCAT) "to take its responsibility to ensure that stocks are managed in a sustainable way".
Environmental organisations immediately condemned the failure, claiming that it sets the species "on a pathway to extinction".
Greenpeace International oceans campaigner Oliver Knowles regretted that the future of the species had been left in the hands of ICCAT, which he referred to as "the very organisation responsible for the dire state of bluefin tuna stocks today".