Great news from the world of politics today for bluefin tuna, as reported in the Independent, although you might want it explaining a little.
The UK and French governments have both said that they will back a proposal by Monaco to have bluefin tuna listed by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).
This would effectively prohibit trade in the bluefin caught in the Mediterranean and Atlantic. CITES already stops trade in other threatened species, and it's the reason why you can't trade in ivory, or bits of tiger. Listing for bluefin would mean and end to the lucrative and lunatic purse-seining and tuna-ranching operations in the Mediterranean, which mostly supplies the Japanese market. Most importantly, it might just rescue northern bluefin tuna from the brink of extinction.
Monaco deserves praise here for sponsoring the issue as the first country to go bluefin free. But the real shock was the announcement by President Sarkozy himself that France would back the move - not least because France is one of the main bluefin fishing nations in the Mediterranean.
The announcement that the UK will back CITES listing for bluefin tuna comes on the back of a huge amount of media interest and public outcry over the fate of bluefin, and a widespread disgust that despite its endangered status, it's still being served up in exclusive sushi bars like Nobu.
The blinkered response from Nobu is to repeat the same old lines, having told the Times that "We are keeping it on the menu. It is not illegal on this date."
That seems a spectacularly blasé and out-of-touch response, and surely further cements Nobu's position as the couldn't-care-less bad guy in the bluefin story. They might do well to consider that the last bunch of people to rely on the ‘it's not illegal' excuse were MPs caught in the expenses scandal, many of whom are now looking for alternative employment.
But back to CITES. This is truly great news, and now we must call on other governments to follow suit. The EU needs to come to a common position on this, and other nations like the US need to nail their colours to the mast. The meeting that will make the decision is not until March 2010, so there is still a long way to go and many potential potholes in the road. And, of course, more needs to be done before then to make sure that there are still some bluefin left to save!
Something everyone should be able to agree on is that we protect bluefin where we know they breed. That seems like a simple and obvious thing to do, right? We think so, and that's why our colleagues in the Mediterranean have today been calling for the urgent protection of an area around the Balearic Islands, where bluefin are known to breed.
Surely, with Europe's politicians starting to listen to the concerns of the scientists, and the outrage of the public, protecting the breeding grounds of this iconic species is something we can make happen...
If you want to help us help bluefin, then why not sign the pledge.