Photo via David Ooms, Flickr creative commons
Bluefin tuna is being fished into extinction, and scientists say a ban on fishing is necessary to help numbers recover. However, should a ban be put into place at the upcoming CITES meeting, everyone needs to be on board if it is to do any good. And Japan isn't. According to the country's top fisheries negotiator, Masanori Miyahara, Japan will not join in any agreement to ban international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna under the United Nations treaty on endangered species. Not surprising considering Japan consumes about 80% of the world's bluefin tuna catch from the Mediterranean, and last month the BBC reported that a single bluefin tuna has been sold for the highest price in the past nine years at a Tokyo fish auction: a 511 pound fish reeled in just over $175,000. So which earns priority - a lot of money now, or having bluefin tuna a few years from now?The New York Times reports that in a telephone interview, Miyahara stated that if bluefin tuna is given status as a most-endangered species - which is should be - Japan will ignore the ban and leave its market open to continued imports.
"It's a pity," he said, "but it's a matter of principle."
Um...what? Matter of principle? According to Miyahara, Japan feels that the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas - and not the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, referred to as CITES, should be the organization managing bluefin tuna catches. However, a formal proposal for a ban is scheduled to be presented at a Cites meeting next month in Doha, Qatar.
"We don't believe the bluefin tuna is endangered to that extent," he said.
Many other countries disagree, including France, which has the largest Mediterranean bluefin fleet. The country said it was prepared to back an international trade ban. It seems like a vital move, considering if current fishing rates continue, experts estimate bluefin stocks in the Atlantic and Mediterranean could collapse entirely within the next three years. Three years. That's it.
With Japan's impact on the bluefin fishing industry, it's intensely disappointing and worrying to see the country take this stance. As we see time and again, when there's a market demand, it's incredibly difficult to preserve a species.