A U.S.-backed proposal to ban the export of Atlantic bluefin tuna prized in sushi was rejected Thursday by a U.N. wildlife meeting, with scores of developing nations joining Japan in opposing a measure they feared would devastate fishing economies. It was a stunning setback for conservationists who had hoped the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, would give the iconic fish a lifeline. They joined the proposal's sponsor Monaco in arguing that extreme measures were necessary because the stocks have fallen by 75 percent due to widespread overfishing. "Let's take science and throw it out the door," said Susan Lieberman, director of international policy with the Pew Environment Group in Washington. "It's pretty irresponsible of the governments to hear the science and ignore the science. Clearly, there was pressure from the fishing interests. The fish is too valuable for its own good."
Malta, Cyprus, Spain, Italy, France, and Greece block ban at Brussels meeting despite support from 21 EU governments.
The "Club Med" of southern European Union countries came under attack from environmentalists today for defying the campaign to ban trade in bluefin tuna, Japan's highly prized sushi fish, whose stocks are dwindling dangerously low.
A fortnight ago the European commission agreed, after weeks of argument, to back a proposal from Monaco to ban trade in bluefin tuna. If the EU had voted for the ban at an international forum next March, fishing for bluefin tuna would have been effectively outlawed, at least temporarily.
Despite optimism that the ban, supported by 21 EU governments, would go ahead, the move was blocked at a Brussels meeting late yesterday by Malta, Cyprus, Spain, Italy, France, and Greece.
"Deplorable," said Xavier Pastor, head of the Oceana fisheries conservation lobby group in Europe. "They are pushing tuna to the point of no return."
"Enough is enough," said Aaron McLoughlin, head of the WWF European marine programme. "It is once again large-scale Mediterranean fishing interests trying to gang up against the long-term survival of Atlantic bluefin tuna."