Saturday, September 5, 2009

Political infighting threatens survival of the bluefin tuna

I saw an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s show, in which he was at a high-end sushi bar, and the chef was naming each fish on the tray. I said out loud, “Please no bluefin tuna,   please no bluefin tuna…” Then he said, “This is the bluefin tuna,” and I shouted at the teevee, “NO! Goddamn you, Anthony Bourdain!”

A single bluefin tuna can fetch tens of thousands of pounds on Tokyo's fish markets, making the trade highly valuable for trawlers and ranches that fatten young specimens. Gavin Newman / Alamy

By Martin Hickman, Consumer Affairs Correspondent

The last chance to save one of the most majestic fish in the sea is on the verge of collapse because of political jockeying in Europe.

A proposal to ban the sale of bluefin tuna is being fiercely opposed by Malta, the capital of the lucrative global business, and by its representative in Brussels, the fisheries commissioner, Joe Borg.

Spain and Italy are also believed to be resisting an application to bar trade in bluefin under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which would cut off exports to the main market, Japan.

The European Commission will decide next week whether the EU will submit the application to a Cites committee meeting in March.

Conservationists fear that support from Britain, France and other northerly European nations for decisive action is wavering amid the objections.

The Commission is divided, with Brussels sources saying Mr Borg is fighting his environment counterpart, Stavros Dimas, who supports a ban.

Japan has also been lobbying all EU states, telling them that the management of the stock is improving.

Britain describes Japan's approach as "not unexpected", though conservationists accuse Japan of interfering in the EU's internal decision-making. Such has been the controversy that the European Commission President, JosĂ© Manuel Barroso, is set to take charge of the issue at his cabinet meeting on Thursday. …

Political infighting threatens survival of the bluefin tuna

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