France unwilling to ban bluefin tuna fishing

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Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Bruno Le Maire says he wants to supervise the fisheries and banning trade in bluefin tuna -- but not banning the fishing of it.

Paris – France's fisheries minister on Wednesday opposed plans to ban fishing of the overexploited bluefin tuna but backed curbing the trade of it outside the EU, notably with the world's biggest consumer Japan.

"I do indeed want us to take decisions on supervising the fisheries and banning trade (in bluefin tuna) -- but not banning the fishing of it," Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Bruno Le Maire said on television.

France has a large bluefin fishing fleet and fishermen there have urged the government to resist pressure from green groups when it decides whether to back adding bluefin to a list by CITES, the convention to protect threatened species.

Curbing just the trading "will ban 90 percent of exports from the European Union to outside countries, so I think that in itself will be substantial progress" in protecting bluefin tuna stocks, Le Maire said.

Ecology Minister Jean-Louis Borloo on Tuesday also cited President Nicolas Sarkozy's position, stated last year, that France should back a ban on trading in bluefin tuna.

Sarkozy has not reaffirmed his stance on the issue since then, however, and environmentalists fear he may have backed down.

The French government had been due to give a decision on Monday on whether it supported adding Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna to a list of protected species, but discussions have dragged on without agreement.

Aides to Borloo said Sarkozy was likely next week to announce France's decision, which will weigh heavily in the final position adopted by the European Union.

French world sailor Isabelle Autissier, who heads the environmental group WWF-France, urged 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.

AFP / Expatica

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