International trade

France against immediate bluefin tuna trade ban

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has repeated calls to postpone an international ban on trade in bluefin tuna until after the release of a scientific report on the fish due next year. Meanwhile, a UN body has voted against a ban on international trade in polar bears.

Bluefin tuna is popular among sushi lovers in Japan
Bluefin tuna is popular among sushi lovers in Japan Reuters

As the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) meeting

The Cites hierarchy of protection

Species are listed on three levels, according to the degree of
protection they need:

Appendix I provides the highest amount of protection and covers about 530 animals, including tigers, great apes, snow leopards and sea turtles, as well as more than 300 plants. Bluefin Tuna is being proposed for inclusion at Doha.
Appendix II covers the vast majority of the 33,000 species protected by Cites. They are "not necessarily threatened with extinction" but exploited in an unsustainable manner.
Appendix III species are protected by national laws.

in Doha discusses a possible ban, Kouchner told Japanese media that it should not be introduced until the publication of a report on bluefin tuna stocks due to be issued by a Cites panel in May next year.

“I hope that an irreversible decision will not be made until the danger of extinction is scientifically proved”, he said.

France has been backing Japan in opposing the proposed ban on cross-border trade in tuna, which is supported by the European Union and the United States.

Bluefin tuna is particularly popular in Japan, where it is the mainstay of sushi and sashimi. Japan is campaigning fiercely to prevent catches in the Mediterranean and Atlantic seas from falling under Cites’ Appendix I, which outlaws all international commerce.

Environmental groups believe that bluefin tuna could disappear as a result of overfishing.

The EU as a whole backs the ban, but French ministers, including French Ecology Minister Jean-Louis Borloo, want to wait for scientists to determine the precise stocks.

Meanwhile, the Doha meeting rejected a ban on polar bears and their parts. The vote on the US proposal fell far short of the required two-thirds majority.

The United States had called for a “precautionary approach”, following the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) classification of polar bears as “vulnerable” to extinction, with their numbers down by 30 per cent in the past 45 years.

Opponents of the trade ban have been arguing that the main threat facing polar bears is climate change, and not poaching or overexploitation.

The polar bear has been registered in Cites’ Appendix II since 1975, which allows controlled trade in the species. Listing it under Appendix II, as proposed by the US, would have totally banned trade.

At the Doha meeting, which goes on until 25 March, the 175 members of Cites will vote on dozens of measures affecting trade in tuna, ivory, sharks, and coral, among other plants and animals.

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