UN wildlife agency backs ban on bluefin tuna trade

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The Independent Online

The UN's wildlife trade agency on Friday said it backed a proposed ban on the international trade in bluefin tuna, a prized delicacy in Asia, which is due to be examined by 175 countries next month.

"We are recommending that the parties approve the proposals

made by Monaco," said David Morgan, head of the scientific support unit at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Japan has opposed the ban proposed by Monaco, which would classify the fish as a species threatened with extinction, CITES officials said.

EU and US proposals to limit international trade in some types of sharks are also due to be examined when CITES holds its triennial meeting in Qatar on March 13 to 25.

Meanwhile, Tanzania and Zambia are asking for a trade embargo on ivory to be lifted, allowing them to sell controlled quantities of elephants' tusks, the agency said in a statement.

European Union states are seeking restrictions on the trade in red or pink corals, among some 40 proposals on the conservation of animal, reptiles, insects or plants that are due to be decided on by CITES member states in Qatar.

"The marine theme of this year's CITES conference is particularly striking," said the agency's Secretary General Willem Wijnstekers.

Morgan told journalists that bluefin tuna met the criteria for inclusion in the top grade appendix one - which bans cross border trade of a species outright and classifies it as endangered - notably because of a general 80 percent decline in its stocks.

Currently bluefin tuna, found in parts of the Atlantic and Mediterranean, is subject to fishing quotas of about 20,000 tonnes a year, but its stocks are highly prized.

A single fish, weighing about 650 kilogrammes, can currently fetch up to 120,000 dollars, according to CITES.