Fishy focus at CITES meeting in Doha. By Willie Mackenzie (GP/UK)

The CITES meeting is now well underway in Doha, Qatar. Greenpeace is there, as are many other NGOs, and it’s clear that there is a very fishy focus for this meeting. As well as proposals to protect sharks and corals, Atlantic bluefin is the species on everyone’s mind. For a meeting concerned with the international trade in endangered species, it’s amazing how much of it could boil down to simple horse-trading.

This meeting, of course, is the chance to get an international trade ban on Atlantic bluefin, a measure that should protect the species from imminent commercial extinction.

Make no mistake though. This is not a ‘done deal’. It’s not just conservation-minded folks assembled in Doha for two weeks and there are seriously-resourced efforts to oppose the listing of fish species generally, and bluefin tuna in particular. Just to put that in context, the Japanese delegation at this meeting is rumoured to be ten times bigger than it normally is. They, clearly, are on a mission. And that mission is evident already, they are trying to undermine the bluefin proposal at every opportunity: scaremongering lobbying of developing nations; proposing a ‘compromise’ of Appendix II listing (which is pretty much pointless), and; some angst about the impending end of sushi and Japanese culture as we know it.

There’s a huge irony staring Japan in the face of course, if bluefin truly is a fish you want to continue to be able to eat, why would you fish it to extinction?

The meeting in Doha runs until 25th March, and it could well be close to the end that we know whether the campaign to achieve an international trade ban on Atlantic bluefin has been successful. In the meantime we have seen a number of countries nailing their colours to the mast. The main fishing nations, US and EU support a trade ban, as do the proposers Monaco, and Norway (much to Japan’s displeasure). Lined up in opposition are Japan, China, Korea, Canada and Australia. As with many of these international meetings though, there is frantic lobbying underway, and equally-frantic tallying of numbers happening on an hourly basis by both sides. So far, not all the party countries have turned up. When it comes down to voting, who is ‘in the room’ can make a crucial difference.

Given that it’s the survival of species that’s at stake – there truly is all to play for.

We’ll keep you up to date with the news from Doha, and if you want to check out the blogs from journalist Charles Clover     and others at the meeting – then keep an eye out here.

Click here to read Greenpeace’s While Stocks Last CITES briefing on the key marine species proposals.

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