Revealed: the bid to corner world's bluefin tuna market

Mitsubishi freezing fish to sell later as stock numbers plummet toward extinction

A A A

Japan's sprawling Mitsubishi conglomerate has cornered a 40 per cent share of the world market in bluefin tuna, one of the world's most endangered fish.

A corporation within the £170bn Mitsubishi empire is importing thousands of tonnes of the fish from Europe into Tokyo's premium fish markets, despite stocks plummeting towards extinction in the Mediterranean.

Bluefin tuna frozen at -60C now could be sold in several years' time for astronomical sums if Atlantic bluefin becomes commercially extinct as forecast, a result of the near free-for-all enjoyed by the tuna fleet.

In the forthcoming documentary film The End of the Line, Roberto Mielgo, a former bluefin fisherman who travels the world monitoring catches, claims that Mitsubishi buys and sells 60 per cent of the threatened fish and that it has expanded its freezer capacity to hold extra bluefin.

Mitsubishi acknowledges that it freezes bluefin, but only, it says, to even out peaks and troughs in supply.

"Mitsubishi Corporation handles between 35 per cent and 40 per cent of Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna imported to Japan," the company told The Independent.

"As we explicitly explained to the makers of the film, the fishing season for bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean is very short, making it necessary to freeze tuna to provide customers with stable supplies throughout the year."

Fish stocks across the world are in retreat because of over-fishing. One study suggests oceans will be stripped clean of all fish by 2048. Bluefin is imminently at risk of commercial extinction. The wildlife charity WWF forecasts that breeding stocks of the fish that migrate from the Atlantic to spawn will be wiped out in the Mediterranean by 2012.

Although the legal bluefin catch is set at 22,000 tonnes, conservationists suspect the actual catch is 60,000 tonnes, four times the maximum that marine scientists recommend. After studying catches and sales, Charles Clover, the environmental journalist behind the film The End of the Line, believes that businesses involved in the ransacking are deep-freezing 20,000 tonnes of bluefin a year for later use.

He hopes his film will galvanise the public about over-fishing in the same way Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth mobilised opinion against climate change.

British retailers and chefs will not stock bluefin because it is so endangered. However, as disclosed in The Independent last week, the Japanese restaurant Nobu continues to serve it – while advising diners to choose a dish that is less environmentally damaging.

The fisheries body responsible for numbers, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), sanctioned a bluefin catch of 22,000 tonnes this year in defiance of its own scientists who advised no more than 8,500-15,000 tonnes.

WWF said the decision was a "disgrace". In fisheries circles, ICCAT is sometimes referred to as the International Conspiracy to Catch All Tuna. Rules forbidding the use of spotter planes to identify tuna shoals are flouted and boats are thought to have connections to organised crime in Italy.

Willie Mackenzie, a Greenpeace fish campaigner, said: "Mitsubishi are best known in the UK for making cars or electrical goods – and for most people it comes as a bit of a shock to find out they are one of the world's biggest traders in the endangered bluefin tuna. Bluefin tuna are as endangered as rhinos or tigers."

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Voices
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
voices
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
News
Michelle Dockery plays Lady Mary in Downton Abbey
peopleBut who comes top of the wish list?
News
Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, right, with Lib Dem candidate Jane Dodds in Newtown, Powys, as part of her tour in support of the party’s female candidates
general electionNick Clegg's wife has impressed during the campaign
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living