Washington Post, “Tuna, Polar Bear Protections Rejected” written by Juliet Eilperin

This may make you wonder…it did me.

No one questions that Atlantic bluefin populations–which are prized for their rich, buttery taste–have plummeted in recent years. Over the past half-century, the adult population of eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna has declined 74 percent. Much of the decline has come in the past decade. In the western Atlantic, the population has dropped 82 percent in 40 years. The declines came even as bluefin fishing was being governed by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), which sets catch quotas for the fish and is supposed to curtail illegal fishing.

But some countries, including Japan and Libya, argued there was no need to impose an outright trade ban when ICCAT officials have the option making further cuts in bluefin tuna catch quotas.

“This was a case of just plain ignoring the science for short-term economic gain,” said Susan Lieberman, director of international policy at the Pew Environment Group, in an interview from Doha.

Tom Strickland, the Interior Department’s assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks and the leader of the U.S. delegation to CITES, had argued that ICCAT had failed to stop the species’ precipitous decline for years.

The United States sponsored the measure, arguing that it is critical to reduce hunting pressure on polar bears at a time when their habitat is eroding due to melting sea ice. The U.S. listed the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2008.

But an array of countries, including the European Union, resisted the added protections on the grounds that hunting is not the most serious threat the polar bear faces. Canada still allows 300 polar bears to be killed a year for international trade and trophy hunting

Environmentalists decried the move, saying the current harvest of polar bears is too high. In addition to being coveted as trophies, polar bear pelts are converted into rugs that sell in Japan and Europe.


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