Times of Malta 22 February 2010 –

The European Commission today proposed that the European Union should press for a ban on international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna to come into force next year.

The Commission said it was deeply concerned that the overfishing of Atlantic bluefin tuna, driven mainly by international trade, was seriously depleting stocks of the species.

The proposal will be discussed with Member States in order to reach a common EU position for the next meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), due between March 13 and 25.

Malta had been resisting such a total ban, but was outvoted by other member states.

A total ban on the international trade of bluefin tuna would mean that fishermen would only be able to catch and sell tuna for local consumption. At present, 80 per cent of tuna caught by EU fishermen is sold to Japan, a practice which the new rule would stop.

Malta’s tuna industry last year exported some €100 million worth of tuna to the Japanese sushi and sashimi markets.

The European Parliament is backing the international ban. Labour MEP Edward Scicluna said during an EP debate last week that the ban would wipe off 1 per cent of Malta’s GDP.

“This is like asking to close down the whole salmon industry in Scotland in one swipe without batting an eyelid,” Prof. Scicluna said.

In backing the ban, the EP called for financial support for seafarers and vessel owners who are affected.