Ban on international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna rejected at CITES

19 March 2010 | News story

In a long-awaited debate, which took three hours to complete, a proposal for a complete ban on international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna was rejected at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) conference which is entering its second week.

Monaco had proposed the ban to include bluefin tuna on CITES Appendix 1, which prohibits international commercial trade. The proposal was rejected by 68 votes to 20, with 30 abstentions.

During the debate, the European Union proposed an amendment that would delay implementation of a ban, pending the results of a review of the status of bluefin tuna stocks currently being undertaken by the International Commission for Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) and scheduled for completion later this year. Both the original and amended proposals were rejected by governments in Doha where the conference is taking place.

Atlantic bluefin tuna has been fished for centuries but its populations in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediteranean Sea have undergone massive declines in the last 40 years. Efforts have been made to try to ensure more sustainable fishing but Monaco had argued that a complete ban on international trade was needed for the species to recover.

Bluefin tuna can reach up to three metres long and weigh more than 650 kg. It’s a highly valuable fish commercially – in January 2010, a single fish sold for more than $120,000. Japan, which consumes 75 percent of all the bluefin tuna caught in the world, had made its opposition to the ban clear long before delegates met in Doha to discuss the proposal.

Earlier in the day CITES delegates also rejected a motion to ban international trade in products made from polar bears. It had been argued that climate change was the main threat to the species and not trade, and that a ban could be detrimental to indigenous people around the Arctic who sometimes hunt bears for meat. 

IUCN media team

Nicki Chadwick, Media Relations Officer,
t +41 22 999 0229, m +41 79 528 3486, e. nicki.chadwick@iucn.org
Brian Thomson, Media Relations Manager, m +41 79 721 8326, brian.thomson@iucn.org