Friday, March 19, 2010

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Trade To Continue

As I mentioned in my previous post, a gathering of delegates to the CITES convention being held in Doha this week was considering whether to suggest a ban in the trade of Atlantic bluefin tuna. Yesterday those delegates voted 68-20 against an immediate ban, as well as voting 72-43 against a weaker proposal supported by the EU for a ban to commence next year (there are 175 members of CITES in all, though not every nation attended or voted). So fishing of the bluefin tuna will continue without restrictions.

The ban had been supported in general by the EU, as well as individual states including Monaco, the United States, the United Kingdom, Holland, Norway and Kenya, but their delegates were unable to sway other nations attending the convention, notably Japan, Canada and France.

France, though an EU member, felt that any ban should await further scientific research into the health of the tuna stocks. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner was quoted in one media report as saying, "I hope that an irreversible decision will not be made until the danger of extinction is scientifically proved."

Meanwhile, Canadian Fisheries Minister Gail Shea expressed the view that, "Canada's position all along has been that this species should be managed through a regional fish management program," adding, "The challenge will be to strengthen ICCAT [the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna] to ensure that conservation measures are adhered to."

In other words, some nations heavily engaged in fishing feel an urgent need to do something to protect the bluefin population now, while others think the situation can be 'managed' until such time as there is irrefutable proof the species is doomed to extinction. Such is the way that international diplomacy works when it comes to as profitable a business as tuna fishing, where short-term prospects replace long-term stability.

As George Monbiot writes in his blog for The Guardian, the proposed ban(s) would have, indeed, put people out of work. "But the absence of a ban ensures that, after one or two more seasons of fishing at current levels, all the jobs and the entire industry are finished forever," he writes, continuing, "The insistence that the fishing can continue without consequences betrays Olympic-class denial, a flat refusal to look reality in the face."

Monbiot goes on to talk of how the scarcer bluefin become, the higher the price fishing firms can get for their reduced catches. It's simple economics: "Once the fish have been exterminated, the investors can just shift their vast profits into another industry." Such as the tuna stocks off Somalia.

If a group like CITES, which is supposed to protect endangered species, cannot find a way to deal with Atlantic bluefin tuna, one has to wonder how they'd fare with stocks in the Indian Ocean off the Horn of Africa.

No comments: