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Talking Points:Japan: eating tuna to extinction
29/03/10
source : The Week Staff  The Week


Talking points ~ Japan: eating tuna to extinction Bluefin fishing should be closely controlled by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (Iccat) rather than being banned outright. Like the Copenhagen summit, the Cites meeting was a miserable event that "exposed the limits of environmental co­operation", said The Guardian. Seven vulnerable Bluefin (too scarce to be fished responsibly) , shark species, polar bears and two types of coral were also refused protection. "Idiots. Morons. Blockheads. Numbskulls," said George Monbiot on Guardian.co.uk .. It's hard to do justice to "the mind-withering stupidity" of what happened in Doha, Qatar, last week. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) rejected a worldwide ban on the trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna, even though it is a critically endangered species. The result was a victory for Japan, which imports 80% of all bluefin caught and insists on its right to eat a fish now facing extinction; it even ostentatiously served bluefin sushi at a reception the night before the vote. In theory, the conservationists had a strong hand, said Charles Clover in The Sunday Times. The USA, Britain, Germany and other big hitters were on board. "No one could remember a better scientific case to support a temporary ban on trade in any species." Bluefin, the largest of the tuna family, return to the Mediterranean every year to spawn, and are hunted down by hi-tech industrial vessels; the experts agree that a ban is needed because stocks have declined to 15% of their historical levels. But Cites "has become political in recent years". And Japan marshalled the opposition brilliantly. A procedural trick was used to limit discussion to 90 minutes, and effective lobbying meant that country after country stood up to demand that. But the Japanese, at least, were delighted, said Philip Brasor in The Japan Times (Tokyo). Fatty bluefin is a delicacy, selling for as much as £13 a piece in Tokyo's sushi restaurants. A blanket ban is seen as an excessive step, a foreign assault on the country's precious "food culture", and managing fish stocks is thought preferable. That might make sense, said Bartley Kives in the Winnipeg Free Press, were it not that Iccat has consistently ignored its own scientists' warnings and allowed bluefin stocks to dwindle to disastrous levels. (Not for nothing has this body been dubbed the "International Conspiracy to Catch All Tuna".) As a result, they're now too scarce to be fished responsibly. And as stocks reduce, prices rise. Big bluefin have been known to fetch more than £100,000, so fleets are "trying harder than ever to catch fewer and fewer fish. - - - Bye, bye bluefin."

 

Editorial Comment: Doesn't exactly inspire that warm glow of confidence in CITES, does it ??!! Where does this leave the less palatable, less nutritious (but, arguably, more ecologically important) sharks in the CITES priorities ? Is everyone open to political wheeling and dealing on such critically-important issues -  marine food supplies for current and future generations ?? It really does make you want to give up fighting an apparently hopeless case in the attempt to oppose short-sighted greed and a lack of thought for our children.!

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