22, Mar, 2010

Will New Zealand vote to protect endangered marine species?

Category: ECO Inc

The Government’s decision to oppose a measure to protect Atlantic bluefin tuna at the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting has appalled the Environment and Conservation Organisations (ECO).

ECO Spokesperson, Barry Weeber said this vote raises important questions about what the New Zealand Government’s position will be in relation to other marine species proposed for protection at the CITES meeting.

Mr Weeber said there was a number of other important marine decisions coming up next week at the CITES including the listing of a range of shark species and corals.

“The shark species proposed for Annex II listing include the porbeagle shark which is fished in the New Zealand waters.”

Mr Weeber said New Zealand must come clean on the way it is proposing to vote at CITES. “New Zealand had opposed secrecy in the past at international meetings and it is now the time to commit to openness.”

Mr Weeber, said New Zealand Government has so far failed to live up to its commitment to protect endangered species. “Atlantic bluefin tuna is listed on the IUCN red list as an endangered species yet New Zealand opposed moves to curtail trade in this species last week..”

Mr Weeber said this is a real case of greed versus science. “All the reviews of Atlantic tuna showed that the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) had failed in its obligations to sustainably manage this tuna species.

“The Commission has regularly ignored the advice of its scientific advisors and failed to reign in the huge level of illegal fishing taking place particularly in the Mediterranean.”

In 2008 a review panel of ICCAT described the organisation as “an international disgrace" and "widely seen as a travesty in fisheries management". It recommended a "suspension of fishing of bluefin tuna in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean….”

The regional fisheries management organisations have failed this tuna and CITES was the last hope. The eastern stock of this tuna species was now estimated to be around 15 percent of its 1950s levels.

Mr Weeber said New Zealand’s decision to vote against the listing does not bode well for upcoming decisions on changes to the catch limits for southern bluefin tuna.

“Southern blue fin tuna is estimated to be less than 5 percent of its original stock size and declining further.” The proposal by the Minister of Fisheries to increase the New Zealand catch by 27 percent goes against the urgent need for further reductions in catch.

The current catch limit is over 9000 tonnes which is over 50 percent greater than the level required to give the stock a chance of rebuilding to 20 percent of its original size in 20 years. “To achieve sustainable levels in 20 years would require catches close to zero.”

For further information, contact Cath Wallace on or (04)463-5713 or Barry Weeber 021-738-807 or (04)389-1686


  1. ECO – the Environment and Conservation Organisations was established in 1972 and represents 67 groups with a concern for the environment.
  2. The Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species is meeting in Doha, Qatar until 25 March. The convention meets every two years to consider proposals from countries to change listings or add new species to the Convention’s appendices. CITES has been working to protect species (both animals and plants) threatened with extinction since 1975 and now has 175 countries as members including New Zealand. The convention protect around 30,000 species globally and has until recently been focused only on terrestrial species including birds.
  3. Atlantic bluefin tuna is listed as an endangered species on the IUCN Red List.
  4. A review panel of ICCAT in 2008 described the organisation as “an international disgrace" and "widely seen as a travesty in fisheries management". It recommended a "suspension of fishing of bluefin tuna in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean until countries fully comply with ICCAT's recommendations on bluefin". Such a closure was seen by the Panel as "the only way to stop the continuation of what is seen by observers and by other contracting party countries as a travesty in fisheries management". The panel consisted of Glenn Hurry, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), Moritaka Hayashi, Professor (now emeritus) of International Law, Waseda University, Japan and Jean-Jacques Maguire, a well-known and respected fisheries scientist from Canada.
  5. Sharks species being discussed at the CITES meeting for listing at Appendix II include Scalloped Hammerhead Shark Sphyrna lewini, Great Hammerhead Shark Sphyrna mokarran, Smooth Hammerhead Shark Sphyrna zygaena, Sandbar Shark Carcharhinus plumbeus, and Dusky Shark Carcharhinus obscurus, Oceanic Whitetip Shark Carcharhinus longimanus, Porbeagle Lamna nasus and spiny dogfish Squalus acanthias in Appendix II.
  6. Proposals to list porbeagle and spiny dogfish have been introduced by Sweden on behalf of other member-states of the European Community, and co-sponsored by the Pacific island nation of Palau. Porbeagle is listed globally as vulnerable threatened species by IUCN with several populations listed as endangered or critically endangered. Spiny dogfish is listed as vulnerable species globally. Porbeagle shark and spiny dogfish are commercially fished in New Zealand waters. This is the second meeting that spiny dogfish has been proposed, it failed just to get a two-thirds majority at the last meeting in 2007.
  7. Scalloped hammerhead, an endangered species and the associated sharks have been proposed by the US and Palau.
  8. Appendix II listing is the second highest level of protection under CITES and international commercial trade is permitted subject to rules. This category includes whale sharks, seahorses and great white sharks.
  9. Southern bluefin tuna is listed on the IUCN Red List of endangered species as critically endangered. See: http://www.redlist.org/apps/redlist/details/21858/0 Punt, A. 1996. Thunnus maccoyii. In: IUCN 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.2.
  10. Southern blue fin tuna is covered by the Convention on the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) which is based in Canberra, Australia. Analysis over recent years identified a high level of illegal fishing by Japanese interests and questions over Australian reporting of caged tuna production.
  11. At the last meeting of CCSBT: South Africa and the European Community expressed concern at the catch limit set. They noted that “this represented a significantly lesser reduction than was required to recover the stock status. They felt that the agreed TAC [catch limit] would not in all likelihood lead to an overall improvement in stocks of SBT."