European Union governments must now approve the proposal before a meeting in Qatar in March of a meeting on the UN's Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites).
“We have no other choice but to act now,” said EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik.
Western Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna stocks have dropped 80 per cent in the last few decades. Japan consumes three-quarters of the global bluefin tuna haul.
Farm and Fisheries Minister Hirotaka Akamatsu said Japan’s answer to the proposal is a clear no, and a Japanese fisheries official said Japan might ignore a ban if it is passed.
“What really matters here is our intention, the future for fish and fisheries concerns every country,” said Maria Damanki, the EU fisheries commissioner. “We are well aware of the short-term cost, but I am sure we can guaratnee a viable future for our fishermen. We have to try and persuade other Mediterranean countries of our intentions.”
France, which is the fisher of bluefin tuna for consumption, is in favour of a ban, but for a limited time and not for another 18 months. Italy has already paused its tuna fishing, using EU funding to make up for the resultant shortfall in income.
Spain, Greece, Cyprus and Malta oppose a ban.