Monaco-Ville, also known as Le Rocher (the Rock), is a tiny little town tucked inside the tiny little pleasure garden that is the sovereign nation of Monaco. Comprising about one tenth of the total area of the Riviera’s pocket Principality, this little hamlet is home to just over a thousand souls – many of them extremely rich. One resident in particular has achieved an astonishing degree of fame and fortune, merely by being the son of his equally diamond-encrusted parents: His Serene Highness Albert Grimaldi II, the Sovereign Prince of Monaco.
Albert Grimaldi’s home, the Prince’s Palace of Monaco, is a mansion of celestial stature that adorns the highest point in Monaco-Ville like a diamond tiara atop a prom queen. It is a place of both breathtaking beauty and incalculable real estate value. Still, despite his lavish digs and lofty title, Prince Albert and his Robin Leach-baiting lifestyle would not normally interest me (well, at least not for the purposes of this blog, but… I mean, come on, Grace Kelly was the guy’s mom. How can my curiosity not be at least a little piqued?) However, Prince Albert is not your everyday European kazillionaire blueblood head-of-state celebrity jet-setter.
Turns out he’s a European kazillionaire blueblood head-of-state celebrity jet-setter environmentalist.
Prince Albert is no slouch when it comes to saving the planet. He has worked diligently to dismantle the Monaco Zoo, repatriate the animals into the wild, and transform the facility into a children’s park (although he does keep two nerpa seal pups which were presented to him by the Russian governor of Irkutsk). He served as the patron of the Year of the Dolphin, a title given to the year 2007 (and later extened to 2008) by the United Nations. He even took a trip to visit 26 different bases and research facilities in Antarctica to learn about the effects of climate change on the ice-clad continent. Still, this was all just a prologue to what the Prince did about a month ago.
In June of 2009, Prince Albert co-authored a letter to the Wall Street Journal with Charles Clover, the author of The End of the Line. In the letter, the Prince openly decried the annual embarrassment that is the European Union bluefin quota. He also acknowledged that the species is indeed endangered and that it merits legal protection rather than the unchecked over-exploitation it is suffering at present.
He concluded his regal communiqué with a masterstroke – a formal announcement that Monaco will propose to have Mediterranean bluefin listed as an endangered species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
The challenge has been that most people are unaware of how amazing this animal really is. Most people have never seen a bluefin tuna, as these majestic creatures spend their lives swimming in the deep blue currents of the Atlantic ocean. Most don’t know that if you let a bluefin tuna reach full maturity, they can weigh over 1000 pounds and exceed 10 feet in length. The actual percentage of the global population that has ever seen a living bluefin tuna up close is too small to calculate.
As such, the country of Monaco, with its population of just over 30,000, is little more than a village on the international stage, but has nevertheless set a tremendous precedent here. Under the guidance of its monarch, Monaco stepped up and took a stand against a barbaric and unconscionable practice that is occurring just a scant few miles from its glitterati-strewn shores. A nation that is only rarely awarded delineation on a schoolbook map had taken a position at odds with those historically espoused by its comparatively gargantuan neighbors, its most important trade partners, and nearly every other country in the world.
A month later, the world was able to see Monaco as the leader it truly is.
On July 16th, 2009, le President lui-meme, M. Nicholas Sarkozy, announced that France, too, would be seeking to list Mediterranean bluefin under CITES. This was a tremendous blow to the bluefin industry; while Monaco is neither an EU member nor a powerful enough state to pose a threat at the Convention meetings, France is both. To compound the impact, later in the same day – a day which could be called “Thunnus Thursday” – a similar proclamation rang out in the streets of London. Huw Irranca-Davies, Minister of Fisheries for the United Kingdom, declared that the UK would join France and Monaco in support of this noble goal.
While it is too early to predict the full ramifications of these events, it is extremely likely that the next CITES Conference – currently scheduled to be held in Qatar in March 2010 – will be quite a pyrotechnic show. Countries like Japan and Spain have invested tremendous amounts of money in the Mediterranean bluefin fishery, and are predicted to vociferously oppose the listing.
So what can we do as individuals to support the actions of Monaco, France, and the UK? How can we make our voices heard above the din of the political machine that is propelling the bluefin towards utter extinction?
Step One: Urge the USA to Join Monaco, France, and the UK. The world looked on as France and the UK rallied to Monaco’s call and formally announced their support to list the Mediterranean bluefin tuna as an endangered species. Now we as American consumers need to show our support by urging the US government to join France, the UK and Monaco in moving to protect the bluefin.
Action: Sign this on-line petition to support the USA joining France, UK and Monaco.
- Step Two: Make smart choices when you eat fish. Not all tuna species are endangered. Consumers can still buy tuna, both canned and fresh, and not contribute to the demise of our oceans. Look for tuna that is taken from healthy and well-managed populations, and that is caught in sustainable and environmentally benign methods. The same applies to sushi. You can still eat delicious sushi and make smart choices.
Action: Check blogs like Sustainable Sushi for ideas on making smart sushi choices at the sushi bar. Visit Seafood Watch to learn more about what seafood options are sustainable, and Greenpeace for a rundown of which seafood retailers are responsible.
- Step Three: Practice catch & release. If you enjoy sportfishing for tuna, especially bluefin tuna,
consider practicing catch and release. One can have all the thrills of offshore sportfishing and still release these trophy fish to live another day. In fact, anglers and charter boats can join a catch and release program that gives these environmentally aware fishermen recognition and incentive for releasing bluefin tuna back into the ocean.
Action: Practice catch and release if you fish recreationally.
- Step Four: Have a voice – join the conservation community. There are thousands of other people who care about the bluefin tuna. If you want to meet others who care and have a voice or ask a question simply look online. There are social networks, research sites and eating guides that are easily found. Additionally, one of the most powerful things one can do is to simply tell your friends about this watershed issue. If you are on Twitter, tweet about your concern. If you are on Facebook, tell your friends how they can help. If you blog, blog about bluefin. You will find many people that are eager to learn and supportive of this most important cause.
Action: Get involved, sign up and voice your concern.
- Step Five: Support critical research. Learning about how these amazing tuna behave and breed is critical if we are to enact successful management policies. Support for bluefin research is needed now more than ever.
Action: Check out the Tag A Giant Foundation, where you can learn about the work that’s been done by some of the world’s foremost marine scientists. The members of this crew have dedicated their lives to bluefin research and are borderline fanatical in their devotion to the animal. A good group.
If we are to save these gentle giants, the time is now. Monaco, France and the UK are giving the bluefin a chance, and it is up to the rest of the world to continue the momentum. We have the power to save the mighty bluefin, but only if our voices unite to demand it.
As for Prince Albert, none of this would have happened without his insight, his courage, and the small but undeniable voice of his Lilliputian homeland. Sometimes it really does take a village to change the world (thanks, Hillary.)
This article was co-authored by John LoGioco and Casson Trenor.