FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The Billfish Foundation has learned its efforts this past summer calling for a ban on international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna has received the support of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Today both NOAA and the Department of the Interior issued statements supporting a CITES listing for the species. Such a listing would ban all international trade in the species but recreational and commercial fishing could still occur domestically.
In the statement issued today Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator, said, "We are sending a clear and definitive statement to the international community that the status quo is not acceptable. Over the past 40 years, the international body that manages bluefin tuna, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), has overseen a 72 percent decline in the adult population of the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean stock of bluefin tuna and an 82 percent decline in the adult population of the western Atlantic stock."
TBF President Ellen Peel said, "We are thrilled to learn that NOAA and the Department of Interior will support an Appendix 1 CITES (Convention for the International Trade in Endangered Species) listing that has been proposed for eastern and western Atlantic stocks of bluefin tuna — a position that TBF recommended last July.
"It is very positive to see the new Administration step forward on this important fish conservation issue. The linchpin now rests with ICCAT to dramatically reduce quotas, stop international trade, close spawning grounds and show that it can stop illegal fishing or face a listing under CITES. Good fishing for all interests is dependent upon healthy fish stocks being in the water. A failure to restore bluefin penalizes all US fishing interests and those who enjoy bluefin tuna."
Decision to be made in November at ICCAT meetings; CITES meetings in March
ICCAT will consider the issue at its annual meeting set for November 6-15 at Recife, Brazil. Ms. Peel, who this week is in pre-ICCAT meetings in Washington, has been named to serve as a U.S. ICCAT Commissioner to negotiate for the U.S. at that November meeting. A meeting of the member nations of CITES will take place in March 13-24 in Doha, Qatar.
TBF Chief Scientist Dr. Russell Nelson added, "I do not believe that anything short of a fully enforced ICCAT moratorium on international trade of bluefin tuna in the Atlantic will send a message sufficient to avoid a CITES listing. It's frankly unlikely that the illegal and unreported fishing that is landing twice the tonnage recommended by the science can be controlled."
Peel concluded, "We are further encouraged by Dr. Lubchenco's wise choice to support CITES and conservation and the acknowledgement that officials in D.C. are listening to the recreational billfishing community."
More on the background on the situation plus the statements from NOAA and the Interior Department are on the TBF web site.