Future of the bluefin tuna: Decision at Doha

11 March 2010

The 15th session of the Conference of Parties to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) opens on Saturday, March 13. At stake will be a proposal to list the Atlantic bluefin tuna in Appendix I of CITES, effectively banning commercial trade in the fish.

First the United States, then the European Union have declared their support of a ban. The EU rallied to uphold the proposal submitted by Monaco, which cited an 80% decline in Atlantic bluefin tuna stocks since 1970. Current over-fishing has driven spawning stocks to a level that is currently less than 20% of the historical baseline. Collated statistics suggest catches significantly higher than the legal quotas, (up to 61,000 t in 2007, according to scientists).

Atlantic bluefin tuna is traditionally consumed fresh in Mediterranean countries, and it is also one of the most appreciated species for the sashimi market in Japan. Japan, which consumes nearly 80% of world bluefin catch, has stated that it would do its best to block the adoption of the measure, specifically by threatening to take a reservation. Such an objection would allow it to continue to buy bluefin if it can find sellers who would also be willing to take a reservation to the trade ban