Press Officer

First name Last Name Adam M. Roberts

For Immediate Release:

16 Mar 2010

Japanese Threat Strikes Note of Discord Over Atlantic Bluefin Tuna

(DOHA)—Japan, the world’s biggest consumer of Atlantic bluefin tuna, is furious at attempts by Monaco and many other countries to prevent commercial fishing of the imperilled species. Magnificent, powerful, prized and seriously threatened, the bluefin tuna is a species that overfishing has driven to the brink. Should the CITES listing go forward, Japan is threatening to take out a Reservation, absolving the nation of its responsibilities under the Treaty with respect to the species.

“As a fisheries biologist, it is clear to me that the tragic status of this species exemplifies everything bad that we have been doing to fish stocks,” said Linda Paul of Earthtrust, a member of the Species Survival Network. “We have consistently ignored the best advice, set catch limits that are way too high (and are frequently exceeded anyway) and now face the consequences of our irresponsibility. Things have come to a crisis point,” she continued. “Since all other efforts have failed, CITES simply must agree to include Atlantic bluefin tuna on Appendix I of the Convention, despite Japanese threats to undermine CITES.”

Regarded by connoisseurs as a prestigious, luxury food (a massive bluefin tuna was sold in Japan for a record $175,000 in January 2010 and a serving of raw Atlantic bluefin tuna can command up to $100) Japanese officials have made it clear that they may ignore the ban in order to keep on importing and consuming this almost commercially-extinct delicacy.

“This would be a bad move by Japan,” Paul comments. “If they enter a Reservation, unless other Parties do as well, the Japanese will have to trade with non-CITES Parties, of which there are just a handful, or increase their own fishing effort.”

That may not be easy despite Japan’s awesome fishing fleet capacity. Depleted Atlantic bluefin tuna stocks are difficult to find and most are in waters under the jurisdiction of coastal states, which would be bound by the ban. Illegal tuna fishing would turn the row about trade and conservation into international incidents that could unravel the very fabric of the CITES agreement.

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