Thursday, January 28, 2010

Fishheads against a wall

I said yesterday that I would comment on the article in The Japan Times about blue fin tuna and whales.

In the article, a member of the Japan Tuna Fisheries Cooperative Association, Hisao Masuko, is reported as saying "If nothing is done, we won't have any tuna at Tsukiji fish market". If I understand the article correctly, when Mr. Masuko says "if nothing is done", he means "if nothing is done" to prevent the adoption of the proposed ban on the international trade in Atlantic blue fin tuna at the CITES conference in a few weeks in Doha. Not "if nothing is done" to conserve the species.

Well, if my business and my life were dependent in the long term on the availability of a resource, I think I'd accept the proposed embargo in order to be sure that the resource comes back in a few years, and that my business continues. There's no doubt that the Atlantic blue fin tuna case is compelling. It is a true tragedy for Japanese fisheries and consumers if this species disappears, not if the trade is halted to prevent the tragedy before it is too late. So, fisheries entrepreneurs and regulators should stop hitting their heads against a wall, act responsibly, and agree to conervation measures that are in their best long term interest.

To anyone interested in understanding the close linkages between the big Japanese fisheries private enterprises and the Fisheries Agency of Japan, I strongly recommend Professor Jun Morikawa's recent book "Whaling in Japan". I red the book and met Professor Morikawa recently in Japan, and I learned on many aspects of the issue which I did not know, or which I thought I knew but not quite.

What is most puzzling with the Fisheries Agency of Japan, is how it manages to maintain a Soviet-style central control on distant fisheries and whaling in a country which is otherwise the paradigm of economic liberalism.

However, I am encouraged to see, here in Tokyo, that more and more voices are speaking up, and demand, like Professor Morikawa, more transparency, more public participation in decision-making, and an end to "scientfic" whaling.

A good example is the opinion piece by Shohei Yonemoto, professor of global environment policy at the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology of the University of Tokyo, published last week-end by Asahi: "Useless research whaling should be abolished".

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