EU countries reject ban on bluefin tuna

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EU member states yesterday (21 September) failed to support proposals aimed at temporarily banning international trade of Atlantic bluefin tuna in order to preserve the species, as a result of opposition from Spain, Malta, Italy, France, Greece and Cyprus. The bloc’s environment ministers will have their final say by the end of the year. 

National experts gathered in a committee responsible for decisions on regulating trade in endangered species were unable to reach the necessary qualified majority to adopt the European Commission’s proposal to co-sponsor Monaco’s attempt to get bluefin tuna listed as endangered under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). 

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas regretted the decision, while Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg said it was now up to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) “to assume its full responsibility to ensure the recovery of bluefin tuna”.

EU member states can still review their position before the Convention meets in March 2010, when the final decision will be taken. 

Mediterranean countries accused of protecting their fishing industry

Those EU countries most opposed to the ban are Spain, Malta and Italy, all of whom have large fishing fleets.

Environmental NGOs Greenpeace and Oceana yesterday accused Mediterranean governments of behaving irresponsibly over the matter. 

Xavier Pastor, executive director of Oceana Europe, said “it is deplorable that the EU member states who are mostly responsible for the depletion of bluefin tuna stocks refused to agree a measure that would have helped reverse the situation. They continue to defend the interests of the tuna fishing industry with apparent disregard for the fact they are pushing tuna to the point of no return”. 

Monaco is the first country in the world to have stopped the sale of bluefin tuna and is sponsoring the proposed ban on the species. Several other European states, including the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and northern countries, have declared their support for such a ban and have been encouraged by lobbying from environmental groups. 

Temporary bans have been imposed by the Commission before, in 2007 and 2008, when it stated there was a need to protect tuna as a “fragile resource” following “substantial overfishing by the EU fleet in 2007”. 

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