The Washington Post reports that the U.S. will support a proposal to list Atlantic bluefin tuna on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. This would have the effect of prohibiting all international trade in this valued fish. A single prized specimen has sold for as much as $175,000 in Japan.
Despite international regulatory efforts under the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, the number of bluefin tuna has continued to decline. Will a CITES Appendix I listing make a difference? Perhaps, but I’m skeptical. CITES has not been particularly effective at conserving highly valued terrestrial species, which can benefit from conservation-through-use and sustainable utilization strategies, and property-based fishery management systems have proven far more effective than regulatory alternatives. It may be more difficult to apply such strategies to a wide-ranging marine species. Nonetheless, I question whether CITES-based trade restrictions would be more effective than an enforceable quota regime, such as that discussed here. Trade restrictions could also inhibit the development of aquaculture in threatened species, and recent technological advances make it easier to adopt property-based conservation strategies than in the past.