Obama Administration Supports Blue Fin Tuna Trade Ban

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The The New York Times reports that yesterday, the Obama administration said that it would back a proposal sponsored by Monoco to ban the trade of bluefin tuna--the darling of sushi counters--across international borders.

Monoco has moved that the blue fin stock is so dangerously depleted that the fish can be categorized as an "appendix 1" species under the United Nations' Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species--a designation reserved for the most endangered animals, like tigers and gorillas, and one that automatically prohibits trade in that species.

The proposal will go to a vote on March 15th, when delegates from the 175 member countries of the UN Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species [CITES] meet in Qatar to vote. Many of the EU member countries are in favor of the ban, except Mediterranean fishing states like Greece and Spain.

Japan says it will not accept any ban, and that country eats up to 80% of the world's blue fin. However, if other countries refuse to trade the fish with Japan, the ban may still have teeth. Still, CITES does not have much enforcement power, and it will be up to member states to police themselves.

Meanwhile, whether the proposal passes or not, there's no restriction on catching blue fin for consumption in your own country. The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas [ICCAT], which sets the blue fin quota each country is allowed to bring in, has ruled that the 2010 catch limit is 13,500 metric tons, a reduction from 2009's 22,000 metric tons, but not the lower quota of 8,000 metric tons that the U.S. had been pushing for.

If it can be enforced, the ban will be a good first step in trying to prevent the extinction of blue fin tuna--presumably it would mean no more blue fin flown in to New York's sushi restaurants from Tokyo. The US would simply have to make do with the 13,500 metric tons allotted to our fishing fleets.

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