Statement of Food & Water Europe Executive Director Wenonah Hauter
(Brussels, Belgium) The failure of EU Member State representatives on Monday (21 September) to reach an agreement on how to handle the proposal to temporarily ban the international trade of Atlantic Bluefin tuna is disappointing.
21 countries supported the proposal by Monaco to place the fish on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), but despite recommendations from environment and fisheries experts at the European Commission, six Mediterranean countries did not back the proposal. EU environment ministers will now need to decide on a final position at the October or December Environment Council.
While a ban requires a vote of all CITES parties, the EU votes en bloc on these issues. A strong backing from the EU would be a clear political signal to the other 175 contracting parties. Food and Water Europe believes that US support for Monaco’s Bluefin proposal is critically important, both at the ICCAT (The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas) meeting in November and at the CITES meeting when Spain will be at the helm of the EU Presidency. EU Environment ministers should heed expert advice and support the listing in Appendix I of Atlantic Bluefin tuna as an endangered species and the US should use its influence to push for this outcome.
Food and Water Europe supports artisanal and historic fishing and an exception for traditional catch by a few Mediterranean countries. Coastal fishing communities which practice artisanal methods have centuries of experience balancing their harvesting behavior against available resources for long term management. Once the fish stock is rebuilt, if fishing is once again permitted, it should be conducted in a sustainable manner that promotes the livelihoods of responsible artisanal fishermen. It is industrial and illegal fishing which is destroying the delicate balance of the ecosystem and driving this beautiful animal to a point of no return.
Atlantic bluefin tuna are both an emblematic conservation and culinary species, being an important part of Mediterranean ecosystem, and highly prized for sushi and sashimi. However, strong demand from Japan has fueled industrial and illegal fishing practices that have pushed the species to the brink of economic extinction — effectively disenfranchising sustainable artisanal fishermen in the process.
The next CITES meeting takes place in March 2010 — the International Year of Biodiversity, in Doha, Qatar. In this time, Food and Water Europe hopes that the opposing states will re-evaluate their stance and see that the position taken by the majority of the European states is the only way forward if Europe is to take its leadership role in sustainability seriously.
Food and Water Europe is a project of Food and Water Watch, Inc (a non-profit consumer NGO based in Washington, DC) working to ensure clean water and safe food in Europe and around the world. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.
Contact: Gabriella Zanzanaini, Food and Water Europe, Brussels [email protected], +32488409662