It was when a third of the cinema audience sprang to its feet shouting at us, and my wife, fearing violence, slipped out of the side door, that I began wondering if we had taken on more than we could handle. The screening last month of The End of the Line in Malta, the centre of the Mediterranean bluefin tuna industry, was the closest I have yet come to a riot since I first pointed out that overfishing is killing our oceans.
I told Sue Lieberman yesterday that I was not sure if Charles Clover’s Pearl Harbour analogy in The Sunday Times to describe the bullying by Japan of this month’s CITES conference would hit the right chord in Tokyo. She said, “probably not, but it certainly felt that way”.
The upshot is, more than ever it’s up to us to do what our governments have failed to do. We need to make the continued trade in endangered species like bluefin politically, socially, and morally unacceptable… and we need to remove the market that makes it so lucrative. Because our collective governments don’t seem up to the job.
The one thing that may not surprise you is that scalloped hammerhead fins are among the most prized for the Chinese delicacy known as shark fin soup. “Finning” remains one of the most disgusting fishing activities. Sharks are caught, their fins are chopped off and they are dumped back alive into the ocean to suffer horrible deaths.
Delegates overturned the protection of the porbeagle shark, agreed earlier this week, and rejected protection measures for other shark species in the closing hours of the global summit on trade in endangered species in Doha.
After a series of defeats for conservationists on other marine species, the porbeagle shark was listed for protection by the UN body that oversees international trade in wildlife.
A proposal to regulate trade in the scalloped hammerhead shark and four similar species was narrowly defeated at the summit of the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) earlier today.
As a result, there was a horrible row in EU co-ordination meetings afterwards and the borderline incompentent Spanish presidency which had contributed so much to the loss of the bluefin vote (accidentally or on purpose, you might ask) threatened Britain with a fine.
It is the 15th meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Some call them the Conservation Olympics – two weeks of debate and voting on trade in endangered animals. From tuna to elephants, from tigers to sharks, 23,000 species come under the spotlight. …
What followed was not pretty. Japan and the fishing nations inflicted a stunning defeat on the conservationist countries, which had wanted to ban international trade in bluefin tuna. Japan’s victory, against the weight of scientific opinion, not only raises the question of whether the bluefin can survive but also whether rationality can ever prevail in preventing endangered species from being obliterated.