03/26/10 — Bluefin ban halted at conference

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Bluefin ban halted at conference

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on March 26, 2010 1:47 PM

A potential ban on the international trade of bluefin tuna was voted down this week during the United Nations conference on endangered species.

Several conservation groups have shown their displeasure with the decision. One exception being the Recreational Fishing Alliance.

In a statement this week, RFA Executive Director Jim Donofrio encouraged sportfishermen to only support conservation attempts that do not hinder sport fishing.

"Most of the arguments from this side of the Atlantic were about how a commercial ban would not have an impact on the sportfishing industry or the quota, which was simply not accurate,"Donofrio said.

If the bluefin tuna were added to the CITES list, which recognizes species as endangered worldwide, the action would have likely resulted in the fishery being tabbed as a catch-and-release only and thus taken away sport fishermen's opportunities to harvest bluefin.

"We have a problem with the international community's refusal to adhere to the committee's past recommendations on quota, and the gross international overharvest during the past 10 years has contributed to the decline of Atlantic bluefin tuna," Donofrio said. "The RFA believes that action to protect the bluefin tuna must be taken, but there's a much greater chance that successful Atlantic bluefin rebuilding can be achieved if all international parties are forced to comply with annual harvest quotas."

The United States' delegation at the CITES conference supported the ban on the trade of bluefin tuna. Several organizations, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Greenpeace openly pushed for the measure's approval.

Since the 1960's the stock of bluefin tuna worldwide has declined by 72 percent. The "eastern stock" which spawn in the Meditteranean Sea have been overfished by three times the sustainable margin. Meanwhile, the "western stock" which spawn in the Gulf of Mexico have stabilized due to better compliance with management measures.

Most of the western stock is fished along the east coast of the US.

The record bluefin in the state of North Carolina was caught in 1995 by Thomas Baily off of Oregon Inlet. The massive catch weighed in at 744 pounds. Last year a new state-record bluefin was nabbed in Virginia, which weighed 537 pounds.