Japan, 40 Marine World, 0. By: The Fisheries Secretariat from Norway

An Associated Press report wrapping up the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting in Qatar said that “the Japanese seemed to be everywhere … their aggressive and relentless lobbying campaign appeared to pay dividends”.

The only trade restriction that had tentatively been voted through – the porbeagle, one of eight threatened shark species – was voted down when it came to a vote in the plenary session.

“It appears that money can buy you anything, just ask Japan,” said David Allison, senior campaign director at Oceana, the world’s largest international ocean conservation organisation. “Under the crushing weight of the vast sums of money gained by unmanaged trade and exploitation of endangered marine species by Japan, China, other major trading countries and the fishing industry, the very foundation of CITES is threatened with collapse.”

According to the AP report, many activists saw the Japanese tactics as proof that CITES has been transformed from a “clubby, conservation body” to one driven by big money, trade and economics. The meeting is becoming more like UN climate change meetings, they told the news agency, where politics at times trumps science and deals are struck by world leaders behind closed doors.

It’s not that the Japanese were the only ones to stake out a position, but they were more organized and persistent, delegates said, than the divided European Union and the United States, which didn’t announce its position on the tuna ban until late in the game.

The US had supported a total trade ban, while the EU did so with certain reservations.

The North Atlantic bluefin tuna spawning biomass has been decimated to less than 15 percent of its unfished biomass, with the sharpest decline occurring in the last decade. Oceana and other groups were calling CITES the last chance for protection of Atlantic bluefin tuna.

”Now the very future of bluefin is uncertain,” said María José Cornax, marine scientist at Oceana. “An international trade ban on bluefin tuna would be the strongest single action to end the global market greed for this species. CITES Parties pushed bluefin tuna towards collapse in a shameful process led once again by industry interest.”

“This meeting was a flop,” said Rebecca Greenberg, marine scientist at Oceana. “I question if CITES has the political will to protect economically valuable marine species like sharks. Scientific support for listing these shark species just couldn’t compete with dirty politics.”

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