Proposed export ban on Atlantic bluefin tuna defeated

DOHA, Qatar — Fishing nations won a victory over environmentalists Thursday when a U.S.-backed proposal to ban export of the Atlantic bluefin tuna was overwhelmingly rejected at a U.N. wildlife meeting.

DOHA, Qatar — Fishing nations won a victory over environmentalists Thursday when a U.S.-backed proposal to ban export of the Atlantic bluefin tuna was overwhelmingly rejected at a U.N. wildlife meeting.

Japan won over scores of poorer nations with a campaign that played on fears that a ban would devastate their economies. Tokyo also raised doubts that such a radical move was scientifically sound.

In another blow to conservationists, a proposal at the meeting to ban the international sale of polar bear skins failed to pass.

With stocks of Atlantic bluefin tuna down 75 per cent due to the rapacious appetites of Japanese sushi lovers, the defeat of the proposal was a stunning setback for the Americans, Europeans and their conservationist allies who had hoped the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, would protect the fish.

“Let’s take science and throw it out the door,” Susan Lieberman, director of international policy with the Pew Environment Group in Washington, said sarcastically.

“It’s pretty irresponsible of the governments to hear the science and ignore the science,” she said. “Clearly, there was pressure from the fishing interests. The fish is too valuable for its own good.”

Japan, which imports 80 per cent of the tuna, had lobbied delegates hard to kill the proposal. They even held a reception Wednesday night for uncertain delegates that included plenty of bluefin sushi.

When Monaco introduced its proposal Thursday, the gallery was filled with critics who ignored a plea to save the once-abundant species that roams across vast stretches of the Atlantic Ocean and grows as big as 1,500 pounds (680 kilograms).

There is an increasing demand for raw tuna for traditional dishes such as sushi and sashimi. The bluefin variety — called “hon-maguro” in Japan — is particularly prized, with a 200-kilogram (440-pound) Pacific bluefin tuna fetching a record 20.2 million yen ($220,000) last year.

“This exploitation is no longer exploitation by traditional fishing people to meet regional needs,” Monaco’s Patrick Van Klaveren told delegates. “Industrial fishing of species is having a severe effect on numbers of this species and its capacity to recover. We are facing a real ecosystem collapse.”

But it became clear that the proposal had little support. Only the United States, Norway and Kenya supported the proposal outright. The European Union asked that its implementation be delayed until May 2011 to give authorities time to respond to concerns about overfishing.

Fishing nations from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean complained that any ban would damage their fishing communities and that fears of the stock’s collapse were overstated. Libya, in a rambling defence of its position, went so far as to accuse Monaco of lying and trying to mislead delegates before calling for the vote.

Under CITES rules, a country can attempt to bring a proposal back to a vote, but Monaco said it wouldn’t.

Japan acknowledged the stocks were in trouble but echoed a growing consensus at the meeting that CITES should have no role in regulating tuna and other marine species. It expressed a willingness to accept lower quotas for bluefin tuna but wanted those to come from the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, or ICCAT, which currently regulates the trade.

“Japan is very much concerned about the status of Atlantic bluefin tuna and Japan has been working so hard for many years to ensure recovery,” Masanori Miyahara, chief counsellor of the Fisheries Agency of Japan, told delegates. “But our position is very simple. Let us do this job in ICCAT, not in CITES. This position is shared by the majority of Asian nations.”

Afterward, Miyahara welcomed the decision but admitted the pressure would be on his country and others who depend on the Atlantic bluefin to abide by ICCAT. The organization ruled in November to reduce its quota from 22,000 tons to 13,500 tons for 2010. The body has also promised to rebuild the stock by 2022, which could include closing some fisheries if necessary.

“I feel more responsibly to work for the recovery of the species,” Miyahara said. “So it’s kind of a heavy decision for Japan too. The commitment is much heavier than before.”

But many environmentalists have heard similar vows before, only to see them ignored and the tuna numbers plummet. A tuna ban was withdrawn at CITES in 1992 under the condition that fishing nations would improve their practices — something they failed to do.

“The regional fisheries management organization in charge of this fishery has repeatedly failed to sustainably manage this fishery,” said Sergi Tudela, head of fisheries at WWF Mediterranean. “ICCAT has so far failed miserably in this duty so every pressure at the highest level must come to bear to ensure it does what it should.”

Some environmentalist fear other marine proposals at the meeting could fail — a worrisome trend given that the meeting had been billed as a chance to use international trade regulations to conserve ocean plants and animals.

A shark conservation proposal was defeated earlier this week and several other proposals to regulate the trade in endangered shark species are in trouble. The problem, many said, is that countries prefer to stick with regional organizations that often are controlled by powerful fishing interests and typically do all they can to protect fleets.

“We were expecting to have a real debate but it was not possible,” said Gael de Rotalier of the European Union. “There was a strong feeling in the room against any involvement of CITES in marine issues. They were making it a matter of principle and not looking at the merits of the case.”

The tuna defeat came hours after delegates rejected a U.S. proposal to ban the international sale of polar bear skins and parts, suggesting that economic interests at the meeting were trumping conservation.

The Americans argued that the sale of polar bears skins is compounding the loss of the animals’ sea ice habitat due to climate change. There are projections that the bear’s numbers, which are estimated at 20,000 to 25,000, could decline by two-thirds due by 2050 due to habitat loss in the Arctic.

But Canada, Greenland and several indigenous communities argued the trade had little impact on the white bears’ population and would adversely affect their economies.

1/4

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says she has not received an official request from any other school board for a similar move to online learning. (Advocate file photo)
’Operational pressures:’ Calgary schools shift to at-home learning for grades 7 to 12

School boards can ask to move online for a number of reasons

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the Coordination Center of the Russian Government in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. The centre was set up as a line of communication with the whole of Russia for analysing and collecting information, promptly using big data and solving arising problems. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Months after hack, US poised to announce sanctions on Russia

First retaliatory action against the Kremlin for last year’s hack

FILE - NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks during the “Topping Off” ceremony of the New York Islanders new home, the UBS Arena at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y., Friday, Oct. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mary Altaffer
Islanders close to selling out inaugural season at UBS Arena

Arena capacity of about 17,000 for hockey

An Uber Eats delivery person carries items near the Japan National Stadium, where opening ceremony and other events are planned for postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics, with engravings in honor of 1964 Tokyo Olympics seen on the side of the stadium wall behind the fence Tuesday, April 6, 2021, in Tokyo. Two top officials of Japan’s ruling LDP party on Thursday, April 15, 2021, said radical changes could be coming to the Tokyo Olympics. One went as far to suggest they still could be canceled, and the other that even if they proceed, it might be without any fans.(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Officials say Olympic cancellation, no fans still an option

COVID-19 cases have been rising across Japan

FILE - In this Jan. 24, 2020 file photo, co-directors Jim LeBrecht, left, and Nicole Newnham, center, from the documentary “Crip Camp” pose with film subject Judith Heumann during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The disabled have a moment in the Oscar spotlight that they hope becomes a movement. LeBrecht, who has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair, says a golden age for disabled films could come if Hollywood lets them tell their own stories. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)
The disabled hope their Oscar moment can become a movement

Traditionally the disabled appear only when an actor seeking an Oscar-worthy role plays one on screen

FILE - Diane Warren poses for a portrait at the 90th Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon on Feb. 5, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif. Warren is nominated for an Oscar for best original song for her work in “The Life Ahead” starring Sophia Loren. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)
12-time Oscar nominee Diane Warren hopes for ‘awesome’ win

Third movie adaptation of the 1975 Romain Gary novel ‘The Life Before Us’

opinion
Opinion: Waiting 4 months between vaccine doses too long

“It’s not just a matter of potency, it’s a matter of the… Continue reading

Richie Laryea of Toronto FC, left, and Jean Meneses of Mexico's Leon battle for the ball during a CONCACAF Champions League soccer match in Leon, Mexico, in Leon, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. Toronto FC hosts Club Leon in the second leg of their Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League round-of-16 tie holding a valuable away goal after a 1-1 draw last week in Mexico. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mario Armas
Injury-riddled Toronto FC dispatches Club Leon in CONCACAF Champions League play

Injury-riddled Toronto FC dispatches Club Leon in CONCACAF Champions League play

Winnipeg Jets' Dylan DeMelo (2) skates the puck around Ottawa Senators' Thomas Chabot (72) as he holds off Winnipeg Jets' Mason Appleton (22) during first-period NHL action in Ottawa on Wednesday, April 14, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Winnipeg Jets score two third-period goals to secure 3-2 victory over Ottawa Senators

Winnipeg Jets score two third-period goals to secure 3-2 victory over Ottawa Senators

Toronto Raptors forward Chris Boucher (25) shoots over San Antonio Spurs forward Keldon Johnson (3) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Anunoby, Siakam rally Raptors past Spurs 117-112

Anunoby, Siakam rally Raptors past Spurs 117-112

Most Read