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.
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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