By Mari Yamaguchi
The Associated Press
TOKYO (AP) — Japan said Tuesday that China supports its opposition to a proposed ban on trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna, a fish prized in sushi.
At a meeting this week in Qatar, the 175-member Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, will vote on a proposal to list the species for protection. If the measure wins support from two-thirds of participating nations, trade of the fish would be banned.
The United States and several European countries have said they support the ban on international trade in the fish, which conservationists say risks extinction if current catch rates continue.
Japanese Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Hirotaka Akamatsu told reporters Tuesday that his country’s prospects of blocking the ban remains tough. South Korea and Australia are also opposing a blanket ban, according to Japan’s public television NHK.
“China hasn’t announced its stance officially, but it’s rather actively lobbying other countries to oppose” a ban, Akamatsu said. “There also are countries that are still neutral or wavering.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters at a regular briefing Tuesday that he had not seen such a statement from China.
Raw tuna is a key ingredient in traditional dishes such as sushi and sashimi. The bluefin variety, called “hon-maguro” here, is particularly prized. About 80 percent of the species ends up in Japan.
Bluefin tuna stocks in the eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean have dropped 60 percent from 1997 to 2007, and environmentalists argue that an outright ban is the only solution left to preserve the species.
If a ban is approved, Japan has said it may ignore it and register a reservation on the measure so that it could continue trade with any other nation that does the same — a step activists say could seriously undermine any ban.
Quotas on the annual catch are already set by another group, the International Commission on the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna, and Japan believes it should continue to regulate the industry. The organization has already cut the annual catch of Atlantic bluefin by 40 percent this year to 14,900 tons (13,500 metric tons).