Today, governments taking part in the world's largest wildlife trade convention put politics before science, and we all lost out.
A ban on the trade of bluefin tuna would have given this critically endangered fish a chance to recover. Instead, member governments of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) rejected the proposal. In doing so, they argued that managing fish populations should be a regional responsibility, instead of falling to them. But the regional fisheries management organisation in change of this fishery– the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (Iccat) – has already had plenty of opportunity to manage the fish stocks.
Instead Iccat members have continued to ignore recommendations from their own scientists, bowed to industry interests, and failed to give the Atlantic bluefin tuna the proper level of protection it requires.
WWF, which has worked on Atlantic bluefin tuna conservation for years, sees this as a major conservation setback – a shocking, ugly and scandalous outcome, dominated by greed. But the fight to save the Atlantic bluefin tuna is not over.
There are important steps that can be taken. As a matter of urgency the hi-tech industrial vessels that are emptying the Atlantic and Mediterranean of bluefin tuna – the purse seiners – should be entirely banned.
Monaco – the Cites member country that submitted the proposal for a Cites Appendix I listing of the species – last year became the first country in the world to be entirely bluefin tuna free. WWF is now actively urging other countries to follow suit.
Nor should the responsibility be confined to governments. Restaurants, retailers, chefs and consumers around the world should act too, and stop selling, serving, buying and eating this endangered species.
Our politicians have once again failed to stop the consumption of bluefin tuna. It is now more important than ever for the rest of us to take responsibility.
Sergei Tudela is Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean