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.
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.
Los pescadores han vapuleado a los ecologistas en una cumbre que la ONU vendió como “una de las ocasiones clave que tendrán los gobiernos este año para tomar medidas de protección de la biodiversidad”.
Los gobiernos han antepuesto los intereses económicos a la conservación de especies en peligro de extinción.
Global conference to protect endangered species pronounced ‘disaster’ by conservation groups after aggressive lobbying.
This year at its meeting in Doha, everything changed. Seemingly alarmed by the large number of proposals to list marine species, Japan turned up in force. Japan’s 30-strong delegation was as big as the one from America. And thanks to its “capacity building” efforts—in other words, providing finance for projects in developing countries—Japan was also able to fly in a dozen or so fisheries ministers, mostly from Africa, to ensure their participation—and, no doubt, their votes.
At this point, conservationists stand a better chance of appealing to the general public, and especially well-heeled consumers, than to quasi-governmental agencies that are easily swayed by industry. People really do need to ask themselves whether sushi is worth the destruction of a species.
WWF is urging ICCAT members to set much lower fishing quotas, based on scientific estimates that give a high probability of fish stock recovery. It is also essential to ban and scrap the hi-tech industrial fishing fleets operating in the Mediterranean Sea – the purse seiners, vessels that drag large purse-like nets through the sea for weeks, scooping up tunas of all sizes and transferring them to fattening farms around the Mediterranean for eventual consumption on the luxury Japanese seafood market.
Mix tasty fish from the wild with growing global demand and industrial fishing by greedy fleets, and you have a recipe for disaster. That is what is facing the Atlantic bluefin tuna, a single one of which was auctioned in Tokyo’s Tsukiji market earlier this year for more than $181,000.