Published 16 July 2009

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France backs ban on Northern Bluefin Tuna trade

Update: on 17th July, Huw Irranca-Davies, the UK fisheries minister, announced the UK would also support a listing of Northern Bluefin Tuna in CITES...and the Dutch fisheries minister, Gerda Verburg, joined the call for a ban too, on 21st July. And Germany's Federal Environmental Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, did so on 23rd July

Rome, Italy/Paris, France, 16th July 2009—President Nicolas Sarkozy of France today announced his country’s support for a ban of international trade in endangered Northern Bluefin Tuna, joining a growing call to list the overexploited fish under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

France and Monarco are backing a ban on international trade in Northern Bluefin Tuna © Brian J Skerry / National Geographic Stock / WWF

Speaking at the close of a national stakeholder consultation on France’s future sustainable fisheries and maritime policy, the “Grenelle de la Mer,” President Sarkozy said: “France supports listing bluefin tuna on the CITES convention to ban international trade.” 

Mr Sarkozy put this in the context of France’s support for a broader sustainable fisheries policy. “Ours is the last generation with the ability to take action before it’s too late—we must protect marine resources now, in order to fish better in future. We owe this to fishermen, and we owe it to future generations,” he said.

The Principality of Monaco was first to communicate its willingness to sponsor a proposal to ban international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna, and has this week launched a formal CITES consultation process to seek the support of other range States. 

Northern Bluefin Tuna is found in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean and the species is in big trouble. 

Contributing to the species’s dramatic decline are the huge overcapacity of fishing fleets, catches that far exceed legal quotas, pirate fishing, the use of illegal spotting planes to chase tuna, under-reporting of catch, fishing during the closed season, management measures that disregard scientific advice—all driven by the insatiable appetite of the world’s luxury seafood markets where Northern Bluefin Tuna fetches record prices.

“In terms of eligibility for a listing in CITES Appendix I, Atlantic Bluefin tuna ticks every box—and then some,” said Dr Susan Lieberman, Director of WWF’s Global Species Programme. 

“CITES contracting parties would surely regret failing to protect this commercially overexploited species, and an icon of the oceans, from collapse on their watch – while they have this historic chance.”

CITES contracting parties next confer in Doha, Qatar 13-25 March 2010, but proposals need to be submitted by 17 October to be eligible for consideration at the Conference of the Parties.