Japan claims it does not fish for Atlantic bluefin tuna, a proposed ban on the commercial trade of which is a key issue at the CITES conference, but environmental activists challenge it.
The ban is being contested by Japan, which imports approximately 75% of the world’s annual bluefin catch for use in fresh sushi and sashimi.
Gulf Times spoke to Toshikazu Miyamoto, attending the conference as the representative of a coalition of Japanese fisheries.
“We promote sustainable fishing,” he said, “and Japan does not fish for Atlantic bluefin tuna, we import from Mediterranean countries.”
This claim was contested by a representative of Greenpeace International, Oliver Knowles, who said: “We believe that there is a Japanese fishing fleet in the western Atlantic.”
Birgith Sloth from Denmark also told Gulf Times that there is a Japanese fleet fishing for bluefin in European waters.
The Danish representative for CITES for 17 years, joining only two years after it was set up in 1975, and continuing until 1994, she now works as an independent consultant in biodiversity.
Knowles stated that the stocks of the northern bluefin tuna are decimated: latest figures indicate 80% of the species has been fished out.
“Even if fishing stopped tomorrow it’d be very hard for the species to recover to its original levels,” he said while asserting that the species deserved a slot on Appendix 1, which would mean a complete ban on international trade in bluefin.
“We know that the Japanese are lobbying hard and are telling other countries that a displaced European fishing fleet would be a big threat to fish stocks in developing nations. This is nonsense, it’s not the case at all that there would be a spare fishing fleet looking for something to fish! If the tuna fleet was stopped from fishing in the Mediterranean and Atlantic it would simply be decommissioned and downsized.”
Sloth explained that the population of Atlantic bluefin tuna in the western Atlantic is now only 15-18% of what it was before commercial exploitation.
Nowadays the fishing is concentrated in the Eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean, and that population has been reduced by 82% over the last 40 years. “The situation is critical,” she added.
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