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WWF urges Japanese to stop eating endangered bluefin tuna

Brazilian company accused of killing 280,000 sharks for fins
Rio De Janeiro (AFP) Aug 2, 2010 - A conservation watchdog Monday accused a Brazilian company of illegally fishing 280,000 sharks which were killed to feed Asia's appetite for sharkfin. The Environmental Justice Institute, a Brazilian group, lodged a suit against seafood exporter Sigel do Brasil Comercio demanding 800 million dollars in environmental damages. "As we can't put a value on life, we have calculated the impact on the ecosystem," the director of the group, Cristiano Pacheco, told AFP. He said the killing of so many of the predators would have a negative effect on the balance between maritime species.

The company caught the sharks off the northern Brazilian state of Para between March 2009 and May 2010, according to information from the Brazilian state environmental agency Ibama given to the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper. "We think the sharkfins were exported clandestinely, in containers, likely from the ports of Rio Grande do Sul to the Asian market," Pacheco said. The high value Asian diners place on sharkfin means the rest of the shark was often thrown back into the sea in violation of environmental regulations, Ibama said.
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Aug 2, 2010
Japanese people, who consume most of the Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna catch, should avoid eating the species until its harvest becomes sustainable, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said Monday.

Japan consumes three-quarters of all bluefin, mainly raw as sushi and sashimi, but experts agree that decades of overfishing have seen its stocks crash by more than two-thirds in the Mediterranean.

"We want to make a call to Japanese traders, retailers and consumers," said Susana Sainz-Trapaga, who heads WWF's Mediterranean activities.

"They have the huge opportunity to make a real difference in the current mismanagement situation. If Japanese consumers don't buy the fish they will force decision-makers in the end to find the right solution."

Japanese consumers should choose skipjack and big-eyed tuna as alternatives until governments set up management measures that allow for the species to recover, Sainz-Trapaga said.

In March the UN-sponsored Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) rejected a ban on the international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna, which had been strongly opposed by Japan.

The bluefin's fate is now in the hands of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the inter-governmental group responsible for managing its stocks, which will meet in November.

Last year, the ICCAT agreed to cut its bluefin tuna catch in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean by 40 percent, to 13,500 tonnes in 2010.

The WWF has strongly criticised the deal, saying that it ignores a key study that found that even a strictly enforced 8,000-tonne quota would spell just a 50 percent chance of the recovery of the species.

The conservation group plans to open a Tokyo symposium Tuesday in its first attempt to reach out directly to Japanese consumers to teach them about the endangered ocean giants and the illegal fishing involved.

earlier related report
BP executive 'absolutely' would eat Gulf seafood
New Orleans, Louisiana (AFP) Aug 1, 2010 - BP's chief operating officer sought to give the southern US fishing industry a much-need boost Sunday, saying he'd "absolutely" eat Gulf of Mexico seafood after the massive oil spill devastated the region.

Doug Suttles's vote of confidence came two days after Louisiana state authorities reopened 2,400 square miles (6,200 square kilometers) of coastal waters for fishing, with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) saying Gulf seafood harvested from such open areas is safe for human consumption.

Environmentalists worry that not enough testing has been done on the seafood, and say BP's use of chemicals to dissipate the oil from the surface means there are lingering questions about toxicity in the fish.

When asked by a reporter whether he'd eat the Gulf's bounty, Suttles didn't flinch.

"I absolutely would," he told reporters after joining a flight over the Gulf to track the oil, which he insisted has dissipated dramatically.

"There's been a tremendous amount of testing done by NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the state agencies and the FDA and others. They're not going to open these waters to either sport fishing or commercial fishing if it's not safe to eat the fish," he said.

"I have a lot of confidence in those agencies and I trust their recommendations and I would eat their food -- the seafood out of the Gulf, and I would feed it to my family," he said.

The Gulf of Mexico is known for its shrimp, crab, oysters, and dozens of species of fish.

The billion-dollar industry is of national importance: the fertile Mississippi Delta region provides for some 40 percent of US seafood production.

BP leased the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded April 20, killing 11 workers and sparking the spill.

Between three million and 5.3 million barrels leaked into the Gulf from April 20 to July 15, when a cap placed over the wellhead was sealed, fully containing the flow of oil for the first time.

Crews on Sunday were ramping up efforts to permanently seal the ruptured oil well.

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