EU drops demand for ban on commercial bluefin tuna fishing

Author: By Lewis Smith

A rearguard action by Mediterranean fishing nations, including Spain, Italy
and France, blocked moves to get the European Union to support a worldwide
ban.

Conservationists backed by celebrities including Stephen Fry have called for a
trading ban to give the species a chance to recover. Yesterday’s setback was
met with dismay.

Lobbying by Japan, whose sushi trade is heavily dependent on Europe’s bluefin
exports, is thought to have played a vital role in the conservationists’
defeat.

Stavros Dimas, the European Commissioner for the environment, was among those
dismayed by the failure to conserve bluefin tuna. He is now pinning his
hopes on a meeting in November of the International Commission for the
Conservation of Atlantic Tunas to introduce tough measures to protect the
fish.

One of Mr Dimas’s officials said: “They need to come up with conservation
protection measures that live up to the scientific evidence ? which so far
they have failed to do.”

Bluefin tuna numbers have slumped to 18 per cent of what they were less than
40 years ago, and individual fish are smaller than they once were.

Officials from EU member states met yesterday to consider a recommendation by
the European Commission to support a ban on trade in the species. Britain
had backed an official proposal by Monaco to champion efforts to place
bluefin tuna on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species.

The proposal had been expected to be adopted until Mediterranean members ?
notably France, Spain, Italy, Malta, Greece, and Cyprus ? joined forces to
block it despite both France and Malta having earlier pledged to support it.

The Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn, said: “I’m very disappointed the
European Union has not agreed at this stage to support the proposal. We
believe that full protection for bluefin tuna is urgent and necessary.”

Greenpeace was particularly angered by France’s decision to block the ban
despite President Nicolas Sarkozy’s promise two months ago to support a
trading ban.

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