October 15, 2009 / 4:26 PM / 10 years ago

Trade curbs sought for sharks, corals, bluefin tuna

* US, EU propose limits on trade in some corals, sharks

* Monaco recommends ban on Atlantic bluefin tuna fishing

By Laura MacInnis

GENEVA, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Tuna popular in sushi, colourful corals used in jewellery and sharks whose fins make soup have been proposed for international trade restrictions overseen by the United Nations, a spokesman for the treaty said on Thursday.

Juan-Carlos Vasquez of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) said countries had submitted 40 requests for trade curbs and controls that will be reviewed at a conference in Qatar in March.

African elephants, some plants from Madagascar, the skins of certain snakes and crocodiles, and a range of waxes and oils used in cosmetics were also suggested for the regulation which aims to encourage conservation, Vasquez said.

“We check that the trade is sustainable, is legal and is traceable,” he explained. CITES registration gives protection to endangered species carrying high economic or commercial value.

Most of the plants and animals proposed for the 2010 Doha conference would, if approved by CITES’ 175 member states, be regulated in a government permit system certifying their trade.

But Monaco proposed that Atlantic bluefin tuna be subjected to a full ban, which could cause big losses for Mediterranean countries who have resisted European Union calls to stop fishing the over-exploited population. [ID:nLM714452]

Atlantic bluefin commands high prices in Asia, particularly in Japan where it is prized for sushi. A single fish can weigh more than 600 kg (1,300 pounds) and fetch up to $100,000.

“This would be a huge change for that industry,” Vasquez said of the proposed “Appendix I” listing, which is more strict than the standard “Appendix II” registration. “You will see meetings taking place on this from now until March.”

Conservation campaigners with the slogan “Too Precious To Wear” celebrated the request from Washington and Brussels to protect red and pink coral through the CITES convention.

A finished necklace made from the corals can fetch up to tens of thousands of dollars, and they are also increasingly used in home decor. Some leading retailers including Tiffany & Co. (TIF.N) and Pottery Barn have stopped using them due to sustainability concerns.

“An Appendix II listing for red and pink coral would not prohibit trade, but would ensure international trade in these long-lived, slow-growing species is carefully monitored via a system of export permits, which will help to reduce trade in illegally fished coral,” the group SeaWeb said in a statement.

The fisheries conservation group Oceana said the proposals to shield eight species of sharks — entered by both the United States and European Union — could help counter the increasingly prevalent view that “sharks are more valuable alive than dead.”

“Shark fins are today’s ivory tusks,” Oceana spokesman Dustin Cranor said. “If countries join together now we can promote the sustainable trade of sharks worldwide.”

The full listing of species proposed for CITES consideration in March will be posted within several days on www.cites.org. (Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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