A 50 delegate-strong Japanese delegation is busy lobbying African delegations at the Doha CITES meeting. Their aim is to gain support against the listing of BlueFin Tuna on Appendix I of the Convention.
Japan has indeed launched a worldwide lobbying strategy to pressure states to side by its preposterous idea that CITES has no business with the collapsed BlueFin Tuna Stock… (Left: Spanish Minister for fisheries Elena Espinosa with her Japanese counterpart during a recent visit to Madrid by a Japanese Fisheries delegation. BlueFin Tuna and CITES were high on the agenda)
Fuelled by Japan’s scaremongering tactics, some delegations are expressing concerns over the potential effects that such listing might have on developing coastal states, particularly in Africa, as well as on other fish resources.
Such concerns, though legitimate, are fortunately and simply unjustified. Here we intend to succinctly address the reality of some of such purported rumours.
Rumour 1: “The listing of Atlantic BlueFin tuna in CITES Appendix I will increase the presence of European industrial vessels in West Africa and other developing regions of the world”…
Rationale: The Atlantic BlueFin tuna fishery is managed by the International Committee for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). In November 2009 ICCAT adopted the Recommendation 09-06, which commits ICCAT Contracting Parties in the 2010 meeting to reduce the total allowable catch for the East Atlantic and Mediterranean stock to the level that would enable the recovery of the stock with 60% probability in 2023. This means that ICCAT must drastically reduce the quotas in its meeting in November 2010; irrespective of what the outcome of CITES COP15 will be.
Additionally, ICCAT last year strengthened the capacity reduction plan for the Atlantic BlueFin tuna, which means that a number of vessels should exit the fishery until 2013. This capacity reduction plan is compulsory for ICCAT Contracting Parties and must be implemented independently of the decisions adopted by the CITES COP15.
The EU has committed to reduce/scrap the industrial purse seine fleet targeting Atlantic BlueFin tuna in the Mediterranean in 2010 and 2011. The vessels concerned are almost exclusively from France and Italy.
The European tuna purseiners operating in the Mediterranean, though large for Mediterranean standards, are not comparable in size and ocean-going features to the oceanic tuna purseiners some European states operate overseas in tropical tuna fisheries. Mediterranean purseiners are specifically designed to catch BlueFin tuna in the Mediterranean. All fishery-delisted vessels will be scrapped (since they are not well fitted for any other fishery).
Rumour 2: “The listing of the Atlantic BlueFin tuna in CITES Appendix I will shift the pressure to other overexploited tuna species in other regions, to fulfil the demand of the market”…
Rationale: The Atlantic BlueFin tuna is highly demanded by the international market for sashimi (raw-consumed fish), which is only a tiny and highly selective fraction of the international market for tunas. The other tuna species with which the Atlantic BlueFin tuna shares niche in the international market are the other 2 BlueFin tuna species: the Pacific BlueFin tuna and the Southern BlueFin tuna. The former is mainly fished by Japan in its waters and the adjacent sea and in the Pacific coast of North America, whereas the latter is severely overexploited and regulated by the CCSBT.
The large imports of Atlantic BlueFin tuna into Japan in the last years, combined with the economic crisis, have generated a crisis of oversupply of sashimi-grade tuna in the Japanese market. Currently, thousands of tons of deep-frozen Atlantic BlueFin tuna are stored in Japan, and producers in the Mediterranean have been turning their eyes towards other alternative prospective markets. The listing of the Atlantic BlueFin tuna in CITES App I, at least in the short term, is unlikely to generate any additional pressure over other stocks mainly because the international market is saturated with sashimi-grade tuna and the last years have seen an unprecedented oversupply crisis. Additionally, the status and particular features of the fisheries on the other tuna species consumed as sashimi –Pacific BlueFin and Southern BlueFin- doesn’t allow for an increase in fishing pressure.
Rumour 3: “If Atlantic BlueFin tuna is listed in CITES Appendix I, many other fish species will follow”…
Response: Not necessarily!
Rationale: Atlantic BlueFin tuna fits the criteria for listing in CITES App I because its global population has declined below 15% its maximum historical level AND because it is subject to a huge international trade. Certainly, most fish species for which overexploited stocks have been described have not declined so dramatically and/or are much less traded internationally. Ultimately, a good performance of fisheries management schemes would rend resorting to CITES superfluous.