French fishermen urge government against bluefin tuna ban

12th January 2010, Comments 0 comments

The national fishermen’s committee says the government "must not give in to pressure from" green groups and argues that scientists were divided as to whether a ban was necessary to save tuna stocks.

Paris – French fishermen are urging the government to resist pressure from green groups when it decides on Monday whether to join a global ban on trade of the overfished bluefin tuna.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon is to announce whether France is in favour of adding Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna to a list drawn up by CITES, the convention aimed at ensuring the survival of threatened species.

The stance taken by France, which has a large bluefin tuna fishing fleet, will weigh heavily in the European Union's position, to be announced on Wednesday.

The national fishermen's committee said the government "must not give in to pressure from" green groups and argued that scientists were divided as to whether a ban was necessary to save tuna stocks.

"Showing too much haste to satisfy environmental fantasies risks destroying an entire sector of French fishing," wrote the committee.

Greenpeace and WWF estimate that tuna stocks have declined by more than two-thirds over the past 50 years and are close to collapse.

French world sailor Isabelle Autissier, who heads the environmental group WWF-France, urged President Nicolas Sarkozy at the weekend to support the ban.

"Over the past decades, there has been intensive fishing (of bluefin tuna) based on short-term profit in response to the high demand from the Japanese market," wrote Autissier in the newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche.

Japan is the world's largest consumer of bluefin tuna.

Sarkozy in July had expressed support for the ban but two months later, France rejected a measure to halt tuna trade proposed by the European Commission, based on an initiative from Monaco.

"It is a mistake to believe that the ocean is endless, a giant limitless food cupboard," wrote Autissier.

French fishermen had urged the government to await results of a new assessment of tuna stocks after a report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation cast doubt on whether overfishing had reached a critical threshold.

A group of leading French chefs in November announced they were taking bluefin tuna off their menus, but with sushi bars flourishing in France, the chefs acknowledged they may be fighting a losing battle.

The European position will be decided ahead of an upcoming meeting in March of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Doha.

AFP / Expatica

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