Japan was accused on Monday of scare tactics at world talks on wildlife protection as it campaigned against a proposal to curb trade in bluefin tuna, the succulent sushi delicacy.
The 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meeting here until March 25, is gearing up to vote on banning commerce in bluefin from the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic, a motion that requires a two-thirds majority to pass.
“It is very much up in the air. There’s a lot of jockeying,” said Patrick Van Klaveren of Monaco, which is leading the charge.
“Japan’s lobbying is formidable. Three or four people from the Japanese delegation are constantly crisscrossing the convention, arranging meetings,” he said.
“They are targeting developing countries, scaring them about what could happen to their (own tuna) stocks, along the lines of ‘your turn will come’,” he said.
Monaco’s proposal, backed by the United States and the European Union (EU), would not affect bluefin caught in the Pacific.
Even so, “the Pacific island nations and Asia are also quite sensitive” to Japan’s arguments, Van Klaveren added.
Tunisia, with major bluefin fisheries in the Mediterranean, is also working the halls, hoping to muster the support of Arab nations against the proposal, he said.
Van Klaveren voiced regret that the EU had not taken a stronger stand.
The 27-nation bloc last week came out in favour of the ban amid mounting evidence that stocks of the precious species had crashed over the past 30 years.
But it has asked for implementation to be postponed until a November meeting of ICAAT, the inter-governmental fishery group that manages tuna stocks in the Atlantic and adjacent seas.
“The EU is not very active. It is absorbed by its own internal negotiations,” Van Klaveren complained.
The rotating EU presidency is currently held by Spain, which, along with France and Italy, accounts for 50 per cent of Mediterranean bluefin catches.
Norway, Switzerland, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Serbia also support the bluefin moratorium, he added.
The CITES secretariat, which makes recommendations on proposals before the convention, declared on Saturday that bluefin tuna fisheries in the two sea zones were in crisis and met the criteria for a total ban on international trade.
The issue will be debated on Thursday, although the vote is unlikely to take place before next week, officials said.
© 2010 AFP