Sunday, March 14, 2010

Bluefin Tuna On The UN Menu

school of bluefin tunaAn East-West clash over Atlantic bluefin tuna dominates a UN conference this week in the Gulf state of Qatar. On the agenda at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) are issues from elephant ivory poaching to the polar bear skin trade. But tuna is proving the most contentious...
tuna is much prized as a great gamefishSeafood-mad Japan strongly opposes a total ban on the export of Atlantic bluefin. Raw tuna is a key ingredient in traditional Japanese dishes, bluefin particularly prized. But as global stocks dwindle, governments around the world increasingly support a complete trade ban to let the fish recover. Japan, consuming about 80% of the species, has already vowed to ignore any bluefin ban and, if other key fishing countries join it, that would allow them to sell tuna to Japan.
And there's the major glitch in the whole system: organisations such as the International Whaling Commission (IWC) with 84 member-nations, CITES with 175, and the UN with 192 (virtually the entire world!), have no teeth! If a country wants to catch a particular species, it knows it can do so without fear. Japan's done it for years with whales, and intends doing it with Atlantic bluefin tuna until stocks are gone.
Somehow the United Nations has to toughen up. Does it need to be recreated as something more relevant, more active, more of an 'enforcer'?
PS: 19 March 2010 - Japanese sushi fans can rest easy. Moves to protect the dwindling tuna stocks have been voted out, due to heavy lobbying by the fishing industry. And when the tuna stocks are wiped out, I wonder if they'll shoulder any responsibility...

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