A possible ban on trading bluefin tuna will top the agenda at an international convention on endangered species that has opened in Qatar.
The chances of a ban increased this week when after months of haggling, the EU joined the US in backing the proposal. The Mediterranean is the main fishing ground, and several European countries have tuna fleets.
The two-week conference in Doha backed by the UN will also look at increasing protection for elephants, sharks, polar bears and coral.
Tuna remains one of the most contentious issues. Stocks are thought to have diminished by eighty percent since 1970. Conservation groups say a trade ban is needed because overfishing has threatened the species’ survival. They also argue for a pause in fishing to allow stocks to recover.
Some eighty percent of all tuna that’s fished is imported by Japan, where it is popular in sushi dishes. Japan and Australia strongly oppose a ban.
The proposal has brought protests such as this one at a Tokyo fish market. Japan argues that the decline in stocks is due to poor regulation of fishing, not to its domestic demand for tuna. It could opt out of a trade ban, but if all other countries comply, there would be no tuna to import.
While diners in Tokyo ponder the fate of their favourite dishes, conservation groups are calling on the EU and US to keep up the pressure.