The Fisheries Minister has joined British activists, writers, actors and artists in calling on the Japanese fish restaurant chain Nobu to stop serving endangered bluefin tuna.
In an interview with The Independent, Huw Irranca-Davies urged Nobu to heed scientific evidence that the species was in peril from overfishing and said he would boycott the £80-a-head chain while it was on the menu.
As a result of fierce criticism, Nobu has put symbols next to bluefin dishes at its restaurants in London (but not elsewhere) advising diners that the fish is "environmentally challenged", adding: "Please ask your server for an alternative." But it has so far resisted pressure to halt sales of the delicacy.
The World Wildlife Fund for Nature estimates that unless fishing is halted, breeding stock of the bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean will be wiped out by 2012. At Nobu's two restaurants in Mayfair, it serves bluefin in sushi and sashimi dinners for £32.50, toro tartar with caviar for £17.50 and seared toro with miso for £19.50.
"There is regulated trade in this species but, while I have a responsibility as a minister in trying to protect this species for years to come, similarly suppliers and restaurateurs have their individual responsibility as well," said Mr Irranca-Davies, a minister at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Asked whether Nobu should take the fish off the menu, he added: "Yes. They cannot simply abdicate responsibility when faced with the evidence.
"I wouldn't be eating in a restaurant that serves bluefin tuna, but they have to make their own decision. There are other fish they could make delicious meals out of. They have a part to play. There is also a part for consumers to play to put pressure on."
With France, Britain is backing a proposal by Monaco to list bluefin under Appendix I of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species, which would ban its sale. Some of Nobu's A-list diners have indicated that they will boycott the restaurant in protest. In May, 31 high-profile diners including Sienna Miller, Charlize Theron and Sting signed a letter to the chef Nobu Matsuhisa, who founded the chain, and appealed for bluefin's removal so they could "dine with a clear conscience".
Nobu could not be contacted yesterday. In response to the letter from celebrity diners, it insisted there was still "enormous demand" for bluefin.