With Bluefin tuna stocks at what seem to be a critical point, Japan, with the help of Canada and a few other countries, has decided to reject a ban on Atlantic Bluefin Tuna fishing, which means that maguro may become a thing of the past. As stocks are down about 80% since the 1970s, and not allowing the stock to replenish could very well be the death knell for the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna.
Japan (and other countries) had been demanding that they would only recognize the sanctions of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) when it came to regulating international fisheries, rather than the United Nations. This meant that the impetus to ban trade in Atlantic Bluefin Tuna, organized by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), was rejected. While ICCAT has been the body which has set fishing quotas for the fish, it has for years set quotas well above what it’s scientists say are sustainable levels. It has therefore been viewed in many circles as largely ineffective at regulating stocks.
A press release from CITES offered a brief summary of what happened:
“Japan, Canada and several members States of the Arab league opposed the proposal arguing that regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) as ICCAT [the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas] were best placed to tackle the decline of bluefin tuna stocks. They added that an Appendix I listing [which would ban trade in the species] would not stop the fishing of the species. After a passionate but relatively short debate, the representative of Libya requested to close the deliberations and go for a vote. Iceland called for a secret ballot. The amendment introduced by the European Union and Monaco’s proposal were defeated (20 votes in favor, 68 against, 30 abstentions) in the middle of much confusion about the voting procedures and mixed feelings of satisfaction and frustration from participants.”
Apparently there was not much debate before a vote was called, which ensured a quick resolution based on preconceived decisions.
While the hiatus from Atlantic Bluefin Tuna fishing still remains in effect, after this vote, fishing will resume again in May. We will have to wait and see what happens to Atlantic Bluefin Tuna stocks as fishing continues at these levels. There may be a day soon when maguro disappears from the menu. Only when this happens, it will be too late to save these fish.