2010-03-15 18:09 –Tokyo –As bartenders close the shutters in Tokyo’s glitzy nightlife district,just a short walk away hand bells ring in the pre-dawn tuna auctions in an old warehouse in Tsukiji. Veteran auctioneers call for bids for hundreds of snap-frozen tuna laid in neat rows in the world’s largest fish market,the size of more than 40 rugby fields. The ocean predators,steaming dry ice,have their tails cut to reveal oval windows of the burgundy flesh that has fetched as much as $175 000 for a 232kg fish here. In the chilly halls,fishmongers with headbands and aprons slice the red flesh with large knives,while three-wheel trolleys race through the warren of narrow aisles.
The famous market on Tokyo Bay,long a must-see tourist spot,is facing a disputed relocation plan in coming years –but another threat is looming large,a possible cross-border trade ban on Atlantic bluefin tuna. At a meeting in Doha,Qatar that runs until March 25,countries will vote on whether to declare Atlantic bluefin a highly endangered species,alongside tigers,great apes and the panda,and ban its international trade. A ban became more likely after the US and the EU last week backed the move ahead of the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites). Decades of overfishing have seen stocks crash by more than two-thirds in the Mediterranean,from where giant freezer ships have long headed for Japan,which consumes three-quarters of the global bluefin catch. But the move has sounded alarm bells in Japan. “I can’t imagine sushi without tuna,”said Ayaka Mimura,a 21-year-old Tokyo university student,as she was buying seafood in Tsukiji. “Of course,I oppose overfishing. But a sudden,total ban sounds unfavourable to me. We just eat fish the way others eat beef.”It is a view shared by Japan’s government and fishing industry,who oppose and have threatened to ignore a trade ban,pushing instead for industry-based ways to make the catch more sustainable. Japan last year pledged to help meet an accord to slash the total catch in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean by 40%,although environmental groups charge that such quotas are routinely exceeded. “Overfishing has never ended under the current quotas,”said Wakao Hanaoka,a Greenpeace researcher. “It is necessary to protect the fish under the convention. I hope Japan will take responsible action.”Hisashi Endo,a Fisheries Agency official,said:“We are not optimistic about the meeting. We are concerned the result could set a new global trend and spread to the Pacific and other oceans.”Vice fisheries minister Masahiko Yamada has already hinted Japan will opt out of a ban by taking a so-called “reservation”,as it has done on whale species in the past. Tokyo will dispatch Fisheries Agency chief Katsuhiro Machida to Qatar on Tuesday to head its delegation and lobby for support. Japan sources 25 000 tons of bluefin tuna a year from the Pacific and 19 000 tons from the Atlantic. The country also has about 20 000 tons of deep-frozen bluefin tuna in domestic stock. Yuichiro Harada,who works with a Tokyo-based lobbying group that says it supports “responsible”bluefin tuna fishing,said:“It’s quite unfair to treat tuna the same way as lions and tigers and elephants. “Unlike those animals,tuna can bear hundreds of millions of eggs and is internationally recognised as a commercial food.”Tsukiji fishmongers staged a small protest last week,yelling out “Protect tuna in the markets!”and “We oppose a decision at the Washington Convention”as the Cites treaty is also known. Traders fear a steep price hike for the bluefin,known as “kuro maguro”or black tuna in Japan. A piece of “otoro”or fatty underbelly,now costs $22 at high-end Tokyo restaurants. “I bet prices will jump on the same day if the ban is adopted,”said Mitsunobu Iida,a tuna wholesaler and sushi restaurant owner. “That’s what market sentiment is always like. We can’t ask our customers to accept a price hike easily…. If we raised the price,people would stop buying it. I’m afraid we are going to have a hard time.”– AFP
People have this misconception that there are never ending supplies of fish in the sea. This is so off the mark,in fact over 85% of the world’s global fish stocks have been depleted in just the last 50 years. At the current rate the world’s marine ecosystem will collapse within the next 20 years!
With regards to blue fin tuna and with all fish actually you cannot compare it to other nations eating beef as the Japanese are,the big difference is you can count head of cattle,we are certainly not driving cow’s to extinction but you cannot count fish. There is no real ways of knowing how many ‘head of fish’ there are swimming around. We do know however from dwindling catches world wide that numbers are severely low. Also tuna are a carnivorous species of fish;can you think of even one land carnivorous species that people eat on a daily basis? No,we don’t eat lions or tigers or leopards or cheetahs.
Cultures change over time and countries in the Far East such as Japan and China need to start practicing more sustainable eating and medicinal habits that do not negatively impact the world’s wildlife,marine life and environment. The fact is that Japan consumes three quarters of the total bluefin caught annually. There should be a global ban and no country should permit the sale of such an endangered species.
We focus on water conservation and enable people to save significant amounts of water through Water Rhapsody Conservation Systems. Everything in nature is so intrinsically linked and we therefore support all global conservation efforts,including a ban on the export and sale of the Atlantic Bluefin,the cheetah’s of the sea.