03/04/2010 - There finally may be a reprieve for the bluefin tuna of the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic, which are spiraling rapidly downward toward commercial extinction. On Wednesday, the Obama administration endorsed a ban on international trade in these fish. It must use all of its influence to get the European Union and others to follow.
Delegates from 175 nations will soon meet in Doha to determine whether to restrict trade in bluefin tuna. It would take a vote of two-thirds of the members to impose a ban, and much depends on whether other major fishing nations sign on. The European Union, whose members account for much of the tuna harvest in those waters, has yet to take a formal position.
Under the international rules governing endangered species, individual nations can opt out of any agreement. Japan has already said it would ignore a ban and leave its markets open to continued imports — even if the tuna are granted endangered species status. That means that for a ban to succeed, the big exporting countries will have to ensure that their fleets abide by the rules and don’t sell to Japan, which consumes four-fifths of Atlantic bluefin, and other countries that keep their markets open.
Read the full editorial A Chance for the Bluefin on the New York Times' Web site.