France wants tuna trade ban in 18 months

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The Independent Online

France wants a ban on international trade in bluefin tuna to come into force in 18 months time in order to protect the over-fished species, a government source said Wednesday.

The announcement came weeks ahead of a European decision on whether to back calls for the lucrative but over-exploited fish - beloved of Japanese sushi fans - to be officially listed as an endangered species.

The French decision - due to be officially announced later Tuesday by the government - will weigh heavily in the final position adopted by the European Union.

"This delay of 18 months was decided to enable new scientific reports (to be drawn up) and to put the finishing touches to a plan for the fleets" of tuna fishing vessels aimed at reducing their catch, said the French source.

France has a large bluefin fishing fleet and fishermen here have urged the state 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.

Environmental groups warn that bluefin tuna face disappearance because of overfishing in the Mediterranean and Atlantic, mainly for lucrative markets in Asia, especially Japan.