Rumors are afoot that Australia’s delegation to the critical CITES meetings currently underway in Europe, that could decide the future of the endangered Northern Bluefin Tuna, includes two representatives from the Australian tuna industry.
The delegation is made up of 5 representatives from the Environment Department, two other bureaucrats including from the fisheries department, and then a representative of Tony’s Tuna International PTY LTD and a representative from the Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association (ASBTIA).
The CITES conference is a United Nations conference on endangered species. Listing can help to increase protection and ban trade in endangered species. There is a push from European countries and the US to list the endangered northern bluefin tuna as CITES level I, which classifies the species as endangered and bans international trade. The Australian delegation is opposing this listing, seeking a lesser level of protection, CITES II, that suggest the species is at risk of becoming endangered and allows international trade under a permit system.
Australia is a major player in the southern bluefin tuna fishery, taking close to half of the legal catch of the species. Southern bluefin tuna is also an endangered species, with breeding stocks estimated to be at less than 10% of pre fishing levels.
The Australian Government has a lot of explaining to do if the tuna industry has representatives on their delegation at this critical international conference. Especially given tuna is only one species being considered for listing, the conference is also considering a range of other species such as corals and a number of terrestrial species.