In an absolutely heartbreaking turn of events, the European Union has decided not to support Monaco’s proposal to award the northern bluefin tuna the protections of CITES Appendix I.
I am gutted.
Even though a majority of countries within the EU – specifically those of Northern Europe, Scandinavia, and the British Isles – voted to co-sponsor, an uncompromising and hostile block of Mediterranean countries were able to defeat the process. Because of convoluted EU law, these southern countries were able to demonstrate enough dissent within the Union that the mighty juggernaut of European bureaucracy creaked to a halt.
While 21 European nations seemed ready to support the ban, the unceasing whine generated by six short-sighted members – Spain, France, Italy, Malta, Greece, and Cyprus – was able to derail the process. Without EU backing for Monaco’s proposal, it becomes increasingly unlikely that the bluefin tuna will find succor. Rather, it will probably fall back under the domain of ICCAT – the very organization through whose lack of potency this magnificent fish has found itself in such dire straits.
This is not progress.
Want to point the finger at someone in particular? No problem. This nauseating story boasts two particularly villainous figures.
Environmental enemy #1: Joe Borg
Joe Borg, Maltese, is the EU Commissioner of Fisheries and Maritime Affairs. Though his political savvy, the bluefin tuna mafia of Malta, Italy, and the rest of the Mediterranean was able to accomplish its shockingly myopic goal of keeping this fishery open. It’s probably not necessary to be reminded that northern bluefin tuna populations have crashed to such a level that, if current fishing trends continue, they will be commercially extinct within two years. Someone please explain to me why countries that depend on fishing for their livelihood would strive to eliminate the very lifeblood of their economy through an unabashed short-term cash grab?
Environmental enemy #2: Nicolas Sarkozy
Remember all that nice stuff I said about Sarkozy a couple months ago? I take it all back. France’s first citizen has proven himself the worst type of turncoat; a traitor to his people and his planet. France was the first country to step forward and support Prince Grimaldi’s proposal, but in recent weeks, Sarkozy has reversed his position and allied with the Mediterranean states. If France had not switched camps, the proposal would have most likely been endorsed by the EU. From a certain perspective, the actions of one individual may have doomed the world’s largest bony fish to an ignominious demise.
Fortunately, all is not lost. We can still save this animal – but yes, it is going to be more difficult that in otherwise would have been.
First of all, there is a chance that Europe will reverse its position. Lobbying efforts are underway in France and other key countries, and if the balance of power can be swung away from the Mediterranean, the European Commission may vote in favor of the proposal after all. Unfortunately, we most likely won’t know how this will fall out until early next year. So, in the interim, Monaco’s proposal needs a new champion.
There is a meeting in Brazil in November that will revisit this issue. Before it kicks off, we need to convince the government of a major world power to take a stand on this – and frankly, the best candidate is the United States. If we can get Washington to step up, we can still save the bluefin tuna from extinction.
We’re gaining momentum here in the States. The Coastal Conservation Association, a major recreational fishing association, has taken up the banner and is pushing to have Northern bluefin listed under CITES Appendix I. President Obama’s Ocean Taskforce is traveling about the country holding open hearings on ocean issues, and the administration seems receptive to the idea of pushing this issue and creating marine reserves in the Gulf of Mexico to protect the bluefin spawning grounds. And numerous environmental groups and activists soldier on, waving the flag and shouting to the rooftops.
Please, spread the word and get involved. If we can create a groundswell of support, we can regain momentum.
Tell your friends and co-workers about this critical issue. Support Greenpeace’s actions in France and help us get Paris back on track. Avoid sushi restaurants like Nobu that serve endangered bluefin tuna. Most importantly – don’t give up on this amazing animal just yet. We can still turn things around.