European Union Looks to Ban Bluefin Tuna Trade

In a move that could set the tone of the bluefin industry around the world, the New York Times is reporting that sustainable fish advocates are pushing for a bluefin ban across the European Union. The unsustainable fish, which has been drastically overfished due the demand of use within the sushi industry among others, has quickly become an endangered species. The first major move within Europe came last July with Monaco requesting that Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin ‘be listed as an “Appendix 1” endangered species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora’.

With the majority of the European Union siding with Monaco’s suggestion, France declared last week that it, too, would back a ban on the international bluefin trade starting late next year. While the move is encouraging for many sustainability advocates, the French agriculture and fisheries ministry has requested that additional research be performed in the eighteen months leading up to the proposed ban, and believes that line and pole-caught bluefin be exempt from the ban.

Surprisingly, the United States fishing industry is strongly against the bluefin ban for fears that it would create a massive black market trade due to the demand for the endangered species.

“In fact,”[Rich Ruais, executive director of the American Bluefin Tuna Association] said, “we believe a listing has the possibility of doing more damage than good.”

This is a very delicate topic, particularly within the Japanese community which remains one of the heaviest consumers of the endangered fish. While advocates certainly have a strong stance on protecting a species whose numbers have dropped so drastically over the last few years, the fishing industry looks to lose numerous jobs should a ban be implemented, with the bluefin tuna trade a nearly $7.5 billion industry. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

~Jennifer Heigl

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