“Try one piece:” During wildlife meeting, bluefin’s on agenda—and menu. By: Michael Casey

A fish dealer cuts tuna at his stall inside Tsukiji Wholesale Market in Tokyo on March 19, 2010. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) © 2010 AP

A fish dealer cuts tuna at his stall inside Tsukiji Wholesale Market in Tokyo on March 19, 2010. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) © 2010 AP

AP Environmental Writer Michael Casey covered the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species meeting that wrapped up Thursday in Doha, Qatar. Here, he looks behind the scenes as delegates make a major decision.

At a meeting of a United Nations wildlife organization, delegates sank their teeth into one issue in particular.

Monaco proposed a ban on Atlantic bluefin tuna, which, if passed, would have cut off exports to Japan, the biggest market for the fish. Raw tuna is a key ingredient in traditional dishes such as sushi and sashimi. The bluefin variety—called “hon-maguro” in Japan—is particularly prized, with a 440-pound Pacific bluefin fetching a record $220,000 last year.

For months preceding this week’s CITES meeting, the Japanese lobbied governments big and small. And the night before the vote at the 175-nation group, they rolled out their secret weapon.

They hosted a reception for select delegates at their embassy in Doha and offered plates of bluefin sushi.

Would some delegates have the taste of succulent tuna on their minds as they considered a ban? Activists wondered, but an Egyptian delegate who attended the reception dismissed the tuna morsels as influencing his vote.

Japan, for its part, appeared amused by the attention. Its bluefin reception was simply a chance remind the delegates mostly from African and other developing nations of their stand and introduce them to a delicacy that many probably had never tasted, officials said.

Casey
“It was gone so quickly. It was very popular,” said Masanori Miyahara, chief counselor of the Fisheries Agency of Japan. “People didn’t know what bluefin looked like. They just wanted to try one piece.”

He scoffed when asked if this tasty mouthful was intended to win votes. “You can’t buy the vote by just serving bluefin tuna,” he said. “That’s a silly idea.”

In the end, the tuna ban was easily defeated.

The Japanese celebrated by holding another reception, again featuring bluefin.

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  1. Matthew Harvey ()

    “introduce them to a delicacy that many probably had never tasted”

    Hope you enjoyed it cause it won’t be around for long !

    Posted March 26, 2010 at 11:20 am | Permalink135

    82
  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Deb, Bob Payne. Bob Payne said: RT @ happy_squid Japanese fed #bluefin #sushi to #CITES delegates the night before the critical vote on #protection http://bit.ly/9ocSMJ [...]

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