Japan sighs relief as bluefin tuna ban fails
Rejection Thursday of a bluefin tuna ban at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) drew sighs of relief from sushi chefs and fishermen across Japan. Japan consumes about three-quarters of the globe's bluefin tuna.
Sushi chefs and fish dealers across the Japanese archipelago were letting out small sighs of relief Thursday night as news filtered in from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Qatar that a proposed export ban on Atlantic bluefin tuna had failed to pass.
Japan consumes around three-quarters of the globe’s bluefin tuna catch, with almost all of it served raw as sushi and sashimi, of which it is the most sought-after variety.
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As a result, the proposed ban has been closely watched here, resonating far beyond the sushi bar. While many Japanese acknowledge that waning bluefin tuna stocks are a serious problem – stocks have dropped by about 60 percent in the past 13 years – something of a siege mentality is detectable in views expressed in the media and by ordinary people.
To some, it feels like another round of Japan-bashing when taken in the context of the recent confrontations with the Sea Shepherd antiwhalers, the Oscar victory for the anti-dolphin hunting documentary “The Cove,” and even Toyota’s recent travails.
“I do wonder if it’s only whales and tuna that are in danger of dying out – aren’t there other fish, that Japanese people don’t like to eat, in the same situation?” asks Kaori Fukasawa, the mother of two tuna-loving children. “It’s a bit like Toyota’s recent troubles. Haven’t there been similar problems with Chrysler or other US motor companies? They sometimes seemed to be enjoying the chance to get at a Japanese company.”
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama praised the rejection of a ban, saying that "I think it was a good decision." The Japanese government and fishing industry have said that sharper enforcement of catch quotas set by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas is a better approach. Late last year, that body reduced the global quota by 40 percent, to 13,500 tons.