Menus Subscribe Search

Blue Day for Bluefin

• March 19, 2010 • 10:34 AM

U.N. body comes down heavily against ban on fishing for iconic bluefin tuna.

Carl Safina, president and co-founder of the Blue Ocean Institute, a conservation organization based on New York’s Long Island, is dismayed at the failure of the latest international efforts to rein in the overfishing of threatened bluefin tuna.

“I’m very disappointed, as a former tuna fisherman and as a conservationist, at the inability of countries to cooperate and make decisions in the interests of everyone,” Safina said.

His comments followed the overwhelming rejection of a proposed ban on the export of Atlantic bluefin tuna during Thursday’s meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in the Middle Eastern state of Qatar. (Miller-McCune touched on CITES work earlier this month in a discussion of the efficacy of pocket seafood guides for diners.)

CITES staffers put a positive spin on the vote, headlining a press report “Governments not ready for trade ban on bluefin tuna,” suggesting that at some point they will be.

Safina, a longtime champion of the vulnerable bluefin, first proposed banning exports 20 years ago. He complained that Japan, largely through its economic influence on other countries, was undermining the ability of CITES, an arm of the United Nations, to function properly.

He said Japan used the same tactics to undermine the International Whaling Commission and the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, established in 1969 to help safeguard about 30 species of tuna and other large fish. The Japanese, for their part, seem to share the idea that efforts to protect the bluefin have not ended. The head of Japan’s fishing agency said the country would be under pressure to adhere to ICCAT’s reduced catch, while Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama was quoted by BusinessWeek telling his nation, “It’s good that tuna prices won’t rise for now, but the situation is still unpredictable. We must remain cautious.”

Japan, where a single tuna can fetch well into six figures, imports an estimated 80 percent of Atlantic bluefin, which is highly prized among sushi and sashimi lovers.

At the meeting, Japan acknowledged fish stocks were in trouble but was able to rally a significant majority of member countries against the proposed restrictions by arguing that trade regulation is a matter for ICCAT, not CITES.

However, Safina sees no reason to trust ICCAT, which, he says, has consistently bent to the will of interested parties and done the wrong thing every year for the past 40 years.

The tiny Mediterranean principality of Monaco led efforts to ban bluefin exports but only the United Sates, Norway and Kenya offered direct support; siding with Japan were a host of nations from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, many worried about the negative impact a ban might have on their domestic fishing industries. The final vote was 20-68, with 30 abstentions. As CITES itself reported, after Iceland called for a secret ballot, the vote came “in the middle of much confusion about the voting procedures and mixed feelings of satisfaction and frustration from participants.”

Safina said the only recourse now was to keep pressing for bluefin protection through an export ban: He said that will become inevitable “but only when things are at their worst.”

Also at the CITES meeting, a U.S. proposal to ban the international sale of polar bear skins and body parts was voted down 48-62, with 11 abstentions, with economic considerations again taking precedence over conservation ideals.

The double blow led Safina to post a terse note on Facebook: “Bluefin tuna: proposal to ban trade is rejected. The right thing never happens for the bluefin tuna. Polar bears also screwed.”

Sign up for our free e-newsletter.

Are you on Facebook? Become our fan.

Follow us on Twitter.

Add our news to your site.

Frank Nelson
Frank Nelson has written for newspapers and magazines in England (his original home), New Zealand (his adopted home), Australia (a temporary home) and the United States (his current home). The author of two lighthearted travel books, All You Need is Luck and A Little More Luck, he is now a freelance writer based in Santa Barbara, Calif.

More From Frank Nelson

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

August 1 • 4:00 PM

The Gaps in Federal Law That Are Making It Easy for Lenders to Sue Soldiers

Courts are required to appoint attorneys for service members if they are sued and can’t appear. But the law says little about what those lawyers must do. Some companies have taken advantage.


August 1 • 2:22 PM

Warmer Parenting Makes Antisocial Toddlers More Empathetic

Loving care may be the best antidote to callous behavior in young children.


August 1 • 2:00 PM

The Federal Health Insurance Exchange Remains Surprisingly Active

New federal data, obtained by ProPublica under the Freedom of Information Act, shows nearly one million insurance transactions since mid-April.



August 1 • 6:00 AM

The Idea of Racial Hierarchy Remains Entrenched in Americans’ Psyches

New research finds white faces are most closely associated with positive thoughts and feelings.


August 1 • 4:00 AM

How and Why Does the Social Become Biological?

To get closer to an answer, it’s helpful to look at two things we’ve taught ourselves over time: reading and math.



July 31 • 4:00 PM

Thank You for Your Service: How One Company Sues Soldiers Worldwide

With stores near military bases across the country, the retailer USA Discounters offers easy credit to service members. But when those loans go bad, the company uses the local courts near its Virginia headquarters to file suits by the thousands.


July 31 • 2:00 PM

A New York State of Fracking

Court cases. A governor’s moratorium. Pending health study. A quick guide to the state of fracking in New York.


July 31 • 11:17 AM

How California Could Power Itself Using Nothing but Renewables

We don’t need fossil fuels.


July 31 • 8:00 AM

Should Athletes Train Their Memories?

Sure, but it probably won’t help.


July 31 • 6:00 AM

Universal Basic Income: Something We Can All Agree on?

According to Almaz Zelleke, it’s not a crazy thought.


July 31 • 4:00 AM

Medical Dramas Produce Misinformed, Fatalistic Viewers

New research suggests TV doctor dramas leave viewers with skewed impressions of important health-related topics.


July 30 • 4:00 PM

Still the World’s Top Military Spender

Although declining in real terms, the United States’ military budget remains substantial and a huge drain on our public resources.



July 30 • 2:04 PM

The Rise of the Nuisance Flood

Minor floods are afflicting parts of Maryland nearly 10 times more often than was the case in the 1960s.


July 30 • 2:00 PM

The (Mostly Awful) Things You Learn After Investigating Unpaid Internships for a Year

Though the intern economy remains opaque, dialogue about the role of interns in the labor force—and protections they deserve—is beginning to take shape.


July 30 • 12:00 PM

Why Coffee Shortages Won’t Change the Price of Your Frappuccino

You’re so loyal to Starbucks—and the company knows it—that your daily serving of caffeine is already marked up beyond the reach of any fluctuations in supply.



July 30 • 10:00 AM

Having Difficult Conversations With Your Children

Why it’s necessary, and how to do it.


July 30 • 8:00 AM

How to Make a Convincing Sci-Fi Movie on a Tight Budget

Coherence is a good movie, and its initial shoot cost about the same amount of money as a used Prius.


July 30 • 6:00 AM

Are You Really as Happy as You Say You Are?

Researchers find a universal positivity bias in the way we talk, tweet, and write.


July 30 • 4:00 AM

The Declining Wage Gap for Gay Men

New research finds gay men in America are rapidly catching up with straight married men in terms of wages.


July 30 • 2:00 AM

LeBron James Migration: Big Chef Seeking Small Pond

The King’s return to Cleveland is a symbol for the dramatic shift in domestic as well as international migration.


July 29 • 4:00 PM

Are Children Seeking Refuge Turning More Americans Against Undocumented Immigrants?

A look at Pew Research Center survey data collected in February and July of this year.


Follow us


Subscribe Now

Warmer Parenting Makes Antisocial Toddlers More Empathetic

Loving care may be the best antidote to callous behavior in young children.

The Rise of the Nuisance Flood

Minor floods are afflicting parts of Maryland nearly 10 times more often than was the case in the 1960s.

America’s Streams Are Awash With Pesticides Banned in Europe

You may have never heard of clothianidin, but it's probably in your local river.

How Textbooks Have Changed the Face of War

War is more personal, less glorious, and more hellish in modern textbooks than in the past. But there’s still room for improvement.

The Big One

One in two full-time American fast-food workers' families are enrolled in public assistance programs, at a cost of $7 billion per year. July/August 2014

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.