Six countries in the Mediterranean region have stood in the way of co-sponsoring a proposal on a ban on trading blue fin tuna.

Despite the European Commission deciding to support Monaco’s proposal to ban trade in blue fin tuna, Malta, Cyprus, Spain, Italy, France, and Greece blocked the initiative. The rest of the 27 EU Member States either supported or remained neutral on the proposal.

Six countries in the Mediterranean region have stood in the way of co-sponsoring a proposal on a ban on trading blue fin tuna.

Despite the European Commission deciding to support Monaco’s proposal to ban trade in blue fin tuna, Malta, Cyprus, Spain, Italy, France, and Greece blocked the initiative. The rest of the 27 EU Member States either supported or remained neutral on the proposal.

At a meeting this week of the EU’s Management Committee for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), EU Member State representatives forged a position on the recent European Commission opinion that Atlantic blue fin tuna meets the requirements to be listed on CITES Appendix I to restrict international trade – and the recommendation that the EU should formally back such a listing proposal. Yesterday 21 EU countries came out in favour of the proposal but formal EU backing was blocked by just six Mediterranean states against – discarding the advice of European Commission environment and fisheries experts.

A majority is not enough to ban the trade; all 27 EU member states would have to support the ban in order for it to be voted through in European Council. France’s position has been especially surprising, given that President Sarkozy made in a speech in July 2009 supporting the ban on trading blue fin tuna.

The Member States blocking the ban are nations with strong fishing interests, which appear to have put short term gains instead of long term survival of blue fin tuna and the industry it supports at the top of their priority list. It is worth nothing that Portugal stood out against “Club Med” and backed the proposal.

According to experts, stocks of the fish are almost at extinction levels in the Mediterranean. Several environmental NGOs, including OCEANA and WWF have expressed their disappointment and condemned the Council position.

Later this year, the European Commission will consult Member States about the EU's position on all CITES proposals, including blue fin tuna, which is when the final EU position will be decided. For the moment, the European Commission still has a formal position of supporting an Appendix 1 listing.

Photograph by Sarah Lelong/Marine Photobank

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