News / USA

So Long Sushi, US Sides With Bluefin Tuna

Fate of endangered fish considered this week at global convention

The Atlantic bluefin tuna population has declined by 80 percent since 1970. The prized-fish is the gold standard of high-end sushi.
The Atlantic bluefin tuna population has declined by 80 percent since 1970. The prized-fish is the gold standard of high-end sushi.

Multimedia

Audio
Rosanne Skirble

In the 1970s, Carl Safina fished off the U.S. Atlantic coast for bluefin tuna, a majestic warm-blooded predator that travels at highway speeds and can weigh as much as 650 kilograms.

"I've seen acres and acres of bluefin tuna at the surface, exploding through the surface and chasing prey fish." Safina says it wasn't a question of whether the fishermen would catch one. "When the fishing was good, we just assumed we would be going out and catching tuna."

Diminishing species

Over the last 40 years, though, the global adult bluefin tuna population has declined by more than 80 percent. The trend has been driven by industrial overfishing, coupled with surging demand, largely from Japan, which consumes 80 percent of the world's supply. The prized bluefin tuna is usually served as sashimi or sushi.

In 1969, the International Commission for Conservation of Atlantic Tunas was charged with setting quotas and managing healthy tuna populations. They've failed in that mission, says Safina, now president of the conservation group, Blue Ocean Institute.

When Carl Safina fished commercially off the U.S. Atlantic coast in the 1970s, blue fin tuna were abundant.
When Carl Safina fished commercially off the U.S. Atlantic coast in the 1970s, blue fin tuna were abundant.

"In the last ten years, with the fish on the western side of the Atlantic pretty much demolished, a lot of the focus of the fishing has intensified on the eastern side of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and that population is now falling apart," says Safina. "And the Tuna Commission has demonstrated on an annual basis its complete inability to control the fishing."

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species or CITES is a global treaty that protects 30,000 species of animals and plants. The CITES Conference in Doha, Qatar March 13-25 will consider the proposed commercial trade ban on bluefin tuna.

Game changer

The Obama administration recently announced support for the measure.

Susan Lieberman, director of International Policy at the Pew Environment Group, applauds the decision which she says could be a game changer for the species.

The bluefin tuna is usually served as sashimi or sushi.
The bluefin tuna is usually served as sashimi or sushi.

She expects the 27-member European Community to vote as a bloc in support of the ban. As the world's leading consumer, Japan opposes the measure, and could take a reservation or opt out of the treaty in order to continue fishing. However, since Japan depends largely on tuna imports, Lieberman says the focus will be on ensuring other countries don't opt out as well in order to supply the Japanese market.

"If Japan, unfortunately, takes a reservation they still have to have a country they can import from because they can only then import from another CITES country that has a reservation. The U.S. will not take one. The EU will not take one. And we believe that the EU will exert sufficient pressure on the North African countries to do the same."

It is estimated that millions of sharks are killed each year solely for their fins.
It is estimated that millions of sharks are killed each year solely for their fins.

Rebound

The Blue Ocean Institute's Safina says he expects the species to eventually recover should a commercial bluefin fishery ban go into effect. "You would see something right away and then probably that growth will begin to increase at an accelerated rate, and in a decade you would see very substantial recoveries," says Safina.    

The ban would not affect the popular albacore or yellowfin tuna that end up in cans.

In addition to the bluefin tuna ban, delegates at the Doha meeting will consider proposals to put trade controls on eight threatened species of shark and red and pink corals.

You May Like

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Yearsi
X
December 18, 2014 5:13 PM
Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Years

Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid