Ban on bluefin tuna would 'threaten Japanese culture'

Delegates from 175 countries debate a proposal to restrict the international trade in the sushi delicacy

A A A

The fate of the Atlantic bluefin tuna – beloved by sushi gourmets and on the brink of extinction – could be decided within days.

The 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) opened yesterday in Qatar to debate proposals banning the international trade in the fish. Delegates will also discuss moves to restrict the sale of sharks' fins.

Cites has been successful in restricting trade in big cats; great apes and elephants but this is the first time a marine species has taken centre stage.

Willem Wijnstekers, the secretary general of Cites, said there was much more support than two years ago for restricting or banning trade in many marine species, including the bluefin. "I don't think anyone has an argument against the listing of Atlantic bluefin tuna. There is no scientific argument against that."

He added that countries were turning to his organisation because tools to manage stocks were not working and that many of the oceans' commercially fished species were under threat. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation says more than half of all marine fish stocks are under threat.

Plans to ban fishing and the international trade of bluefin and sharks has prompted a bitter international tussle, with Europeans and Americans pitted against the fishing nations in North Africa and Asia, especially Japan, which has already vowed to ignore any bluefin ban. The Japanese consume 80 per cent of bluefin eaten worldwide, and the ban proposal has provoked public protests in Tokyo and other Japanese cities.

Opponents claim Japanese culture is under siege and that concerns about bluefin extinction are overblown. Sushi is a popular dish in Japan, where fatty bluefin – called o-toro – sells for as much as 2,000 yen (£13) apiece in high-end Tokyo restaurants.

Canada, which has a sizeable tuna fleet, is known to oppose export bans.

Monaco, the sponsor of the proposed ban, said bluefin numbers have declined by nearly 75 per cent since 1957. Despite quotas, high-tech fisheries have drained tuna stocks in the Mediterranean and western Atlantic. Such is the demand that one fish sold recently for £111,000 at market, according to the Marine Conservation Society.

Opponents of the trade are more hopeful after the US recently backed a ban. Supporters of the proposal are now watching closely to see whether other fishing countries will join Japan's rebuff – which would allow them to sell tuna to the Japanese.

Achim Steiner, the executive director of the UN's Environment Program, which administers Cites, said limiting the trade on a range of threatened species could go a long way to ensuring biodiversity. "By ensuring that the international trade in wildlife is properly regulated, Cites can assist in conserving the planet's wild fauna and flora from overexploitation and contribute to the sustainable development."

Sam Wilding, the fisheries officer for the British Marine Conservation Society, said: "These opportunities do not come around that often, and it is time for the majority to stand up to the minority that gain so much economic benefit from driving species towards the brink of extinction. We urge consumers to help by avoiding all fish on our red list and to ask where your tuna comes from, to ensure it's sustainable."

Other items on this week's Cites agenda include measures to combat ivory poaching in Africa, banning tiger farming in China, and the trade in polar bear skins. There is also a bid to regulate the trade in red and pink corals – harvested to make expensive jewellery.

Suggested Topics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager - North West

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager - South West

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Administrator - IT - Fixed Term, Part Time

£17340 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Come and join one of the UK's leading ca...

Recruitment Genius: Property Sales Consultant - Chinese Speaking - OTE £70,000

£18000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity for a Fluent Chines...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent