It’s been a while. Sorry for the silence.
There were any number of reasons for my delay in writing this. March was a busy month for sure: the resurgence of competing priorities, such as working towards the successful end of Greenpeace’s Trader Joe’s campaign, certainly did their part in keeping me away from this blog. The Boston Seafood Show and related pandemonium was no help either. But to be honest, the main reason that I haven’t written is much simpler than that.
I’ve been sad.
The Northern bluefin tuna was doomed to commercial extinction last month at the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) meeting in Doha, Qatar. In spite of all the work done by millions of caring people around the globe, the Japanese delegation managed to defeat our best efforts and corral enough votes to deny the bluefin even the most meager of protections. Truly, the ocean’s most majestic fish has been sentenced to death for the twin crimes of being profitable and delicious.
I have spent the last few weeks seething over the unconscionable actions of the Japanese delegation. CITES wasn’t even about coming together and discussing the real issues – frankly, it never got that far. Riding in on a horse of flame and bluster (earlier that week, the Japanese government had stated that “even if the bluefin were awarded CITES protection, the Japanese would ignore it,”) a fifty-strong group of delegates from Tokyo stormed the meeting, bullying and coercing smaller nations into supporting their myopic, arrogant agenda. And the cherry on top of this bloody sundae? The Japanese delegation hosted a dinner during CITES to discuss this issue, at which they had the audacity to serve – you guessed it – bluefin tuna.
Am I the only one appalled by this unbridled hubris?
To worsen matters even more, a measure aimed at restricting the trade of corals was defeated, and of the eight species of shark that were tabled for potential protection, not a single one was given any succor whatsoever. Oh, and I almost forgot – the polar bear was left out in the cold as well.
The 2010 CITES meeting was nothing short of a travesty. The few countries that were finally able to get things together and support an environmental agenda fell apart in the face of a well-organized, well-funded Japanese delegation that treated these matters as nothing short of issues of national security. In one fell swoop, the CITES parties have sacrificed ten key species – northern bluefin tuna, oceanic whitetip sharks, scalloped hammerhead sharks, great hammerhead sharks, smooth hammerhead sharks, porbeagle sharks, spiny dogfish, sandbar sharks, dusky sharks, and our noble polar bears – for the benefit of short-sighted economic gain.
Citizens of Earth – our leaders have failed us. Miserably. So what do we do?
Although it may not seem like it from the title of this post, I’m still not ready to take the bluefin’s death certificate to the local notary public. We do have a slight glimmer of hope here in the USA.
The western population of the Northern bluefin tuna spawns in a small area in the Gulf of Mexico, much of which is located within US waters. Even if we can’t yet regulate international commerce, we can still do our part to protect these bedeviled creatures while they are visiting our coastline.
Targeted bluefin fishing in the aforementioned spawning grounds has been forbidden (under ICCAT, believe it or not) since the 1980s. Still, that doesn’t stop fishermen from targeting other species – mainly swordfish and yellowfin tuna – in those areas, and bluefin bycatch is a serious problem. Hundreds of spawning animals are killed every year by longliners that are operating in these areas.
It is within our power to rectify this situation. If the US government bans the use of longline fishing gear within the spawning grounds, it will drastically reduce the overall bluefin bycatch rate in the Gulf and allow more fish the opportunity to reproduce. This is one way that we can bolster the population while we continue to push for the international management that the bluefin so sorely needs.
Please support the PEW environment group’s campaign to give the bluefin tuna at least a modicum of protection by banning longlines in the Gulf of Mexico bluefin spawning grounds.