Brussels, 9 September 2009
Commission recommends provisional EU support for Monaco's proposal to list Atlantic bluefin tuna in CITES Convention
The European Commission shares many of the concerns expressed by Monaco about the state of the stocks of Atlantic bluefin tuna, and has agreed that the EU could provisionally co-sponsor Monaco's proposal requesting the listing of bluefin tuna in CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) appendix 1. Member States will be consulted on this proposal on 21 September. If agreed, the CITES' vote in March 2010 would result in a ban on international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna . The proposal to co-sponsor the Monaco initiative is however provisional since it draws from scientific advice which only stems from 2008. The EU's position will be reviewed before the CITES meeting in March 2010 taking into account the most recent scientific data as well as the decisions of the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) in November 2009.
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "This decision marks an important step in the protection of Atlantic bluefin tuna. We must act on the best scientific evidence available to us – and scientists say that urgent action is needed to safeguard the future of one of the ocean's most emblematic creatures."
EU Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg said: "Our recommendations reflect the grave concern that the Commission shares on the state of bluefin tuna. It will be very important to see what the latest scientific advice says. I call upon all 48 Contracting Parties of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas to review the multi-year recovery plan for bluefin tuna in the light of the latest scientific recommendations. If ICCAT plays its role efficiently and we can ensure full compliance, a complete trade ban can be avoided."
When preparing a proposal for the final EC position, an analysis of the socio-economic impact of the different options to be considered will be provided by the Commission.
Atlantic bluefin tuna
Atlantic bluefin tuna is highly migratory and occurs in the whole North Atlantic Ocean and its adjacent seas, particularly the Mediterranean Sea. The species is particularly targeted in its spawning grounds (the Mediterranean Sea for the Eastern Stock and the Gulf of Mexico for the Western stock). Most of this tuna is harvested by Mediterranean countries. Fishing activities increased substantially in the mid-1990s and reached a peak in 1996 with reported catches amounting to 50 000 tons. The bulk of the activities are now undertaken by large purse-seiners, which transfer their catches alive to tuna farms where the tunas are fed for several months, before being slaughtered and exported to the Japanese market.
Exports to Japan amount to approximately 80% of the volume of Atlantic bluefin tuna harvested in the Mediterranean (around 30 000 tons in 2007). The high estimated volume of Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing for Atlantic bluefin tuna implies that the volume of catches is likely to be higher than the volume of catches effectively reported. As a result of both legal and illegal catches, over the past decades the species has experienced a sharp decline and its conservation status is now very poor.
CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. It accords varying degrees of protection to more than 30,000 species of animals and plants. CITES works by making international trade in specimens of selected species subject to certain controls. These require that the import, export, re-export and introduction from the sea of species covered by the Convention have to be authorised through a licensing system. The species covered by CITES are listed in three Appendices, according to the degree of protection they need.
Since 1969, Atlantic bluefin tuna has been managed under the International Convention on the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). The organisation unites 48 Contracting Parties, including the EU. Over the past years, the EU has pressed for improvement in the management and conservation regime within ICCAT. At ICCAT's annual meeting in November 2008 a revised Multi-annual Recovery Plan was adopted including, among other measures, reduction of Total Allowable Catches, shortening of the duration of the fishing season, new control and compliance mechanisms and the launch of a programme for capacity reduction. The next meeting will be in Recife, Brazil, from 6 -15 November 2009.