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September 25, 2009

Conservationists call for U.S. action to save bluefin tuna

International impasse leaves bluefin on the brink

Citing the failure of the international community to rein in harvest of bluefin tuna, Coastal Conservation Association is urging the United States to proceed with an effort to list the Atlantic bluefin on Appendix I to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and prohibit the international trade in bluefin.

"It is clear from the last meetings of International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and the failure of the European Union to agree on a ban that we are left with only one option to save bluefin tuna," said Chester Brewer, chairman of CCA's National Government Relations Committee. "It is time for the United States to demonstrate some leadership and insist that all international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna be halted, while hope for a recovery still remains."

The call to list bluefin tuna as an endangered species was outlined in a letter from CCA National Chairman Venable Proctor to Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. Proctor pointed to ICCAT's own independent review of its approach to fisheries management, which concluded that the management of bluefin tuna is an "international disgrace," as evidence of the need for the United States to take more of a leadership role.

"ICCAT has failed to take any action to enforce its own regulations on its own members, which violate already excessive quotas with impunity, resulting in annual harvests that have been 400 percent of levels recommended by biologists intimately familiar with the species," Proctor stated. "There is no longer any reason to expect ICCAT to end the overexploitation of bluefin."

"American fishermen and markets are not responsible for driving bluefin tuna to the edge of extinction, but we need to lead the solution to salvage what is left and set it on a road to recovery," said Dr. Russell Nelson, CCA's Gulf fisheries consultant.

An Appendix I listing means that a species ranks among the most endangered of CITES-listed animals and is threatened with extinction. Such a CITES listing prohibits all international trade in specimens of these species except when the purpose of the import is not commercial, such as for scientific research.