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Japan Plans to Ignore Any Ban on Bluefin Tuna
The negotiator, Masanori Miyahara, said in a telephone interview this week that Japan “would have no choice but to take a reservation” — in effect, to ignore the ban and leave its market open to continued imports — if the species was granted most-endangered species status.
“It’s a pity,” he said, “but it’s a matter of principle.”
The position of Japan, which consumes about 80 percent of the bluefin tuna caught in the Mediterranean, “is very simple,” Mr. Miyahara said: A different organization, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, known as Iccat, should manage bluefin tuna catches and protection, not Cites.
Mr. Miyahara said Tokyo acknowledges that the bluefin tuna needs protection, but the endangered-species convention is “quite inflexible,” he said. “It is designed to protect endangered species. We support Cites strongly for that purpose, but it is very, very hard to change.”
Historically, he said, almost no species added to the Cites endangered species list has ever been removed again. “We don’t believe the bluefin tuna is endangered to that extent,” he said.
There is little argument about whether the species is in trouble. Iccat scientists say the number of bluefins in the eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean declined by more than 74 percent from 1957 to 2007, with more than half that decline in the last 10 years. The rise of industrial-scale fishing using a method called purse-seining, which can capture entire schools of tuna at once, accounted for much of the recent depletion.
Environmentalists fear that without quick action the bluefin could become commercially extinct. WWF International estimates that the population of spawning females could be effectively wiped out by 2012 if fishing continues at the current level.
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