Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sushi lovers tense in Tokyo as bluefin tuna nears endangered listing


By Peter J Brown

A few European countries are taking steps to save the world's bluefin tuna population. This month, the European Commission (EC) announced its support for a formal listing of the species as endangered under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which would in effect ban any international trade in bluefin tuna.

Japan is the world's biggest importer of bluefin tuna, which can weigh as much as 300 kilograms or more. Considered a highly prized delicacy by the Japanese, the fish are often sold to customers in wafer-thin slices at sushi bars and restaurants. Whereas a fishing boat owner or captain might sell the fish to a buyer at the dock for $30 to $40 per kilo, that price could increase tenfold or more by the time it lands on someone's plate in Japan.

Prices tripled from 2007 to 2008. One bluefin tuna caught in Japanese waters sold at auction in Japan this year for over $100,000, well short of the all-time record which was set in 2001 at over $150,000.

According to the Asahi Shimbun, Japan consumed 43,000 tons of bluefin tuna last year, and "a total ban on trade of Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tunas would translate to a cut of about 20,000 tons". …

Sushi lovers tense in Tokyo

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