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EU 'considering bluefin tuna protection'

By AFP

The European Union will decide in the autumn whether to add bluefin tuna to a list of threatened species, a move that would mean a temporary ban on its sale on world markets, a spokeswoman said Saturday.

"An EU position will be established this autumn, in line with the normal process for the preparation of the Cites (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) meeting," said the European Commission spokeswoman, Katharina von Schnurbein.

She confirmed the existence of an internal document prepared by the commission which recommends putting bluefin tuna on the list of threatened species. The draft document, which will form the basis of discussions between the 27 EU member nations, was revealed Saturday by the Financial Times.

"From a scientific and technical point of view, the criteria for the listing of Atlantic bluefin tuna (as an endangered species) appear to be met," the newspaper cited the document as saying.

"There is no doubt about the link between international trade and over-exploitation of the species."

However, the commission -- which oversees fisheries policy in the 27-nation European Union -- stipulated that any decision on a ban would not be made before the end of the 2010 fishing season.

A common position will nevertheless be difficult to find with some fishing nations such as Spain, Italy and Malta remaining lukewarm to the idea of a ban, the newspaper said.

"The commission has taken note of the individual positions expressed by some member states supporting the listing of bluefin tuna under the Cites convention," Von Schnurbein said.

"However it is clear that internal coordination is still to come on this issue."

She said the European Commission would be working with all member states "towards the establishment of a common EU position" before the Cites meeting in March 2010.

At the moment bluefin tuna has no protection under Cites, the only global body with the power to limit or ban international trade in endangered species.

If bluefin tuna are given protected status at the meeting in Qatar next March the sale of the fish on international markets would be banned although it could still be sold locally.

Such a measure would eliminate the main cause of over-fishing: the strong demand for the delicacy as sushi and sashimi in countries such as Japan and the United States.

France, Germany, Britain and the Netherlands have said they would support a ban.

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