France is expected to announce a ban on trade of overfished bluefin tuna in the coming weeks, according to a report in Le Monde this week. But it hopes to calm the fury of the fishing lobby by negotiating with Brussels a stay of 12-18 months before that ban comes into effect, as well as re-training subsidies for out of work fishermen and an exclusive zone for small-scale line fishermen who would be exempt from the ban. Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo also hopes to retain the option of being able to reverse the ban if fish stocks reconstitute.
The government is divided over the form the ban will take, with Borloo favouring the more restrictive inscription on Annex 1 of the CITES list – the convention ensuring the survival of threatened species - while the Agriculture and Fisheries Minister favours Annex 2, which allows for export quotas.
France’s decision will probably shift the European Union in the same direction, thereby boosting chances of mustering the two-thirds majority needed at Doha, Qatar, where the 175 member countries of the CITES will meet in March.
The French government has been slow on the uptake on this issue, compared with restaurants and supermarkets which have enforced their own bluefish tuna bans in the past year. Michelin-starred chefs such as Alain Ducasse and Joel Robuchon have led the charge, taking the tuna off their menus, while supermarket chains Auchan and Carrefour have done the same, substituting their shelves with other species such as mackerel and scad.