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  PlanetArk 1 Feb 07
Japan Atlantic Tuna Quota Slashed by Nearly a Quarter
Story by Elaine Lies

Yahoo News 31 Jan 07
Japan, EU agree to slash tuna catch amid extinction fears
by Harumi Ozawa

Yahoo News 26 Jan 07
Global plan to save tuna stocks, critics say not enough
by Harumi Ozawa

PlanetArk 23 Jan 07
Japan Meeting Seeks to Save Tuna from Extinction

Story by Elaine Lies

TOKYO - Illegal fishing has depleted global stocks of tuna and governments need to take bold action to save some critically endangered species, the WWF conservation group said on Monday as a conference on the topic opened in Japan.

Japan's insatiable appetite for tuna has been a key factor behind the threat to stocks, and now increasing demand from other countries is adding to the pressure.

Populations of important commercial species such as bluefin tuna, of which Japan consumes more than half, are already critically depleted, the WWF said in a statement.

"Atlantic bluefin, used for high-end sushi and sashimi, is massively overfished and the spawning stock of Southern bluefin in the Indian Ocean is down about 90 percent," it added.

The world's five major tuna management groups -- regional clusters of governments known as Regional Fisheries Management Organisations -- are meeting this week in Kobe, western Japan, to discuss problems facing the industry. Some 300 officials from 77 countries and regions are slated to take part.

"The tuna stocks have been overfished across the oceans, and we have to handle this problem with a global point of view," Japanese Fisheries Agency Director General Toshiro Shirasu said at the opening of the meeting. WWF officials called the gathering an important first step but said regulators needed to set quotas based on scientific data and combat illegal fishing.

"For the first time, there's a general agreement by the governments that something significant has to be done," said Alistair Graham, High Seas Advisor for WWF International.

"One of the key decisions they have to make is to stop ignoring scientific data and to put in place catch limits."

With fishing a touchy political topic in many nations, governments have tended to shy away from imposing restrictions on the industry.


The Kobe meeting is not expected to set catch limits, since those are decided at regional gatherings, but Graham said one outcome could be a decision by governments to use data on stocks and depletion for their fisheries policy.

The meeting may also call for greater coordination among the regional management organisations and including tighter documentation of catches to prevent overfishing.

"Many governments are routinely ignoring scientific advice, failing to implement the available conservation and management measures, turning a blind eye to illegal fishing, and not prosecuting those who flout rules," said Simon Cripps, director of WWF's global marine programme.

Japan was rocked in November by news that global quotas for Atlantic bluefin tuna will be cut by nearly 8 percent next year. Japan's quota for southern bluefin was halved the month before for the next five years as punishment for years of overfishing.

Experts say substantial catch reductions are needed for big-eyed and yellowfin tuna, both relatively inexpensive species that regularly appear on Japanese supermarket shelves, and whose price would rise considerably were catch limits imposed.

Yahoo News 26 Jan 07
Global plan to save tuna stocks, critics say not enough
by Harumi Ozawa

KOBE, Japan (AFP) - Dozens of countries have agreed on the first global plan to fight overfishing of tuna, stepping up efforts to prevent the immensely popular fish from being driven to extinction.

But the accord, hashed out after five days of meetings here, set no limits on the number of fish that can be caught -- a key demand by conservationists who warned that the international craze for sushi is wiping out tuna stocks.

The joint plan by some 60 countries and areas calls instead for better coordination to track trade, including by tagging fish to verify catch numbers and sharing information to blacklist illegal fishing vessels.

"Just having this joint meeting of the five organizations is a very significant development," said David Balton, the US deputy assistant secretary of state for oceans and fisheries. "The true test will come not at this meeting but the way these commitments made here in Kobe are actually translated into actions," he told AFP.

The five existing tuna conservation bodies, covering different regions including the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean, have previously lacked standard criteria to prevent the overfishing of tuna.

But environmentalist groups have warned that the meeting may already be too late, arguing that only a radical overhaul of fishing practices can save the dwindling number of tuna.

"It has been an extremely busy week for everybody, but unfortunately not a historic week for tuna," said WWF fisheries officer Katherine Short. "The meeting has failed to deliver meaningful action."

Another WWF official, Alistair Graham, said of governments: "Perhaps they moved an inch but not much further."

Some environmentalists complained that the action plan failed to set target figures of how, when and which countries would reduce their number of fishing vessels so as to bring down the world's total tuna catch.

But Japan's leading negotiator Katsuma Hanafusa said setting target figures was "not the purpose" of the international gathering. "This meeting was to set the overall direction. If we try to include certain figures in the action plan, we knew the negotiation would never see the end," he said.

Masanori Miyahara, an official of Japan's Fisheries Agency and chairman of the conference, said any talk on numeric targets would be complicated by developing countries, which are seeking to boost revenue through fishing tuna.

"We have not even decided how much of a reduction we should seek in the number of fishing vessels in the world," Miyahara said at a press conference. "We are not even at the starting point yet," he said.

But environmentalists have pinned much of the blame on Japan, which consumes one-quarter of the world's tuna, and warned that worldwide demand for Japanese food was bringing tuna to the brink of eventual extinction.

The action plan recognized "the critical need to arrest further stock decline in the case of depleted stocks (and) maintain and rebuild tuna stocks to sustainable levels."

Participants also agreed to "jointly commit to take urgent actions to cooperate through tuna regional fisheries management organizations," it said.

The delegates will meet again at the second joint meeting in January or February 2009 in Europe.

An international commission in November reduced the world's gross catch of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean from 32,000 tons in 2006 to 29,500 tons this year, a move likely to lead to an import crunch in Japan.

PlanetArk 1 Feb 07
Japan Atlantic Tuna Quota Slashed by Nearly a Quarter
Story by Elaine Lies

TOKYO - The price of a high-end sushi dinner is set to rise in Japan after Tokyo's quota for Atlantic bluefin tuna was slashed on Wednesday by nearly a quarter over the next four years.

Environmentalists and scientists say populations of important commercial species such as bluefin tuna are critically depleted, endangering some stocks of the fish, a popular food in Japan, the world's largest fish consumer.

Japan's insatiable appetite for tuna has been a key factor behind the threat to stocks around the world, and increasing demand from other nations is now adding to that pressure.

A meeting in Tokyo of a group managing Atlantic tuna decided to cut Japan's quota for Atlantic bluefin by roughly 23 percent from its 2006 level of 2,830 tonnes to 2,175 tonnes in 2010. The overall take of tuna in the region, which includes the Mediterranean and ranges deep into the Atlantic, will be cut to 25,500 tonnes from 32,000 tonnes in 2006, a drop of some 20 percent.

The decision was criticised as too soft by scientists and environmentalists, who had demanded much steeper cuts.

Officials from Japan, which eats more than half of the world's bluefin catch, said they felt the cuts were inevitable to preserve fragile stocks, which environmental groups say have been massively overfished.

"We believe that this was unavoidable, and that we were not treated unfairly," Masanori Miyahara, a senior Fisheries Agency official, told a news conference. "Since bluefin tuna is only one part of Japan's total tuna consumption, the overall impact on consumers is likely to be minimal. But there will definitely be an impact on the higher end of the market," he added.

Further cuts could result if the stock doesn't show signs of recovering over the next few years.

A meeting of the same management group in November cut global quotas for 2006 by 8 percent and agreed on the scale of the longer-term cuts, but didn't have enough time to rule on each nation's share.

Japan last week hosted a conference that brought together all five of the world's major tuna management groups and agreed that urgent measures had to be taken to restore critically depleted stocks of fish.

To satisfy its desire for tuna, Japan ranges far and wide. Tuna for sale in Tokyo's Tsukiji market come from Libya, Greece, Bali, Australia and New York as well as from Japanese ports.

Tuna prices have risen over the past few months, but the impact has been limited due to bluefin's status as one of the more expensive sushi and sashimi ingredients.

Experts have said they also want catch reductions of 25 percent for bigeye tuna and 10 percent for yellowfin in the western and central Pacific, but quotas are steady for now. Both are relatively inexpensive fish that regularly appear on Japanese supermarket shelves, and price rises would have a major impact on ordinary households.

Yahoo News 31 Jan 07
Japan, EU agree to slash tuna catch amid extinction fears
by Harumi Ozawa

TOKYO (AFP) - The European Union and Japan have agreed to slash their tuna quotas by more than 20 percent in an effort to prevent the immensely popular fish being hunted to extinction.

Wednesday's deal is in line with a decision by an international commission to cut the total hunt of bluefin tuna in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean by 20 percent by 2010.

Three days of negotiations in Tokyo yielded an agreement on how to split the increasingly lucrative tuna quotas among 43 countries and regions. The European Union -- which has the largest quota -- agreed to an incremental 20.7 percent cut to 14,504 tonnes by 2010 from 18,301 tonnes in 2006, the Japanese Fisheries Agency said in a statement.

"The negotiations were tough because it was a matter of who gets how much share out of a limited total," Fisheries Agency official Masanori Miyahara told a news conference.

The EU's share of the total catch in the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean would remain barely changed at just under 57 percent.

Environmentalists have warned that tuna face eventual extinction if fishing continues at current rates to feed a worldwide fad for Japanese food. But negotiations faced difficulty as tuna fishing is an increasingly lucrative industry, particularly for developing economies which export to Japan.

Morocco, which has the second-largest quota, will reduce its catch by 23.2 percent to 2,441 tonnes by 2010, the Fisheries Agency said.

Japan, which eats a quarter of the world's tuna and sends boats worldwide to catch the fish, agreed to a quota of 2,175 tonnes in 2010, down from 2,830 tonnes in 2006, the agency said.

But Turkey, which had resisted slashing its quota, will see its catch go down by only 13.6 percent between 2007 and 2010. "Turkey's historical catch amount and historical rights clearly have been neglected by the commission," a Turkish delegate who was not identified told Tokyo Broadcasting System television.

The 43-member International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas decided in November to scale back gradually the total catch of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic from 32,000 tonnes in 2006 to 25,500 tonnes in 2010. But the November meeting in Croatia failed to set national quotas.

"It was good that they came to an agreement," Yuichiro Harada, managing director of the Organization for the Promotion of Responsible Tuna Fisheries, an industry group, said of the Tokyo talks. "Even if the total reduction was set, each country cannot actually take action without national quotas to reach the goal," he said.

The Tokyo-based industry group has demanded a moratorium on the use of additional large tuna vessels.

"The next step is to watch the countries so that they won't export more than the quotas while Japan needs to make sure it does not import over exporters' allowed capacity," Harada said.

In another bid to save the fish, Japan last week hosted a conference bringing together the world's five regional tuna conservation bodies for the first time. The meeting of 60 countries and areas agreed to step up cooperation to monitor tuna populations, although environmentalists were disappointed that it set no new catch limits.

Related articles on Global: marine issues
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