WWF Wants Japanese Consumers to Join the Fight to Save Bluefin Tuna

TOKYO—The conservation organization WWF is taking its campaign to save Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna to the source of the threat facing the species: Japanese consumers, who eat 80% or so of the annual catch as sushi and sashimi. WWF is holding a 1-day Symposium on Responsible Consumption of Tuna here tomorrow where it hopes that government officials, seafood industry representatives, and ordinary consumers will listen to talks on how overfishing, capturing juvenile tunas for fish farming, and poor fisheries management has driven bluefin stocks to 15% of historical levels. The organization is urging consumers to avoid eating Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefins until the fisheries recover and are sustainably managed. "If Japanese consumers don't buy the fish, they would force the decision-makers in the end to make the right decision," Susana Sainz-Trápaga, WWF Mediterranean fisheries policy officer, said at a presymposium press briefing here today.

The decision-makers WWF is targeting are those at the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), whose 48 country members will meet in Paris this November to set catch quotas for Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna. WWF blames the endangered state of these fish on ICCAT mismanagement. It wants the total allowable catch reduced to a level providing an 80% probability of stocks recovering and demands other steps to reduce fishing pressure.

The message has to be tailored for the audience, the organization concedes. Aiko Yamauchi, WWF Japan fisheries officer, said the first step is getting Japanese consumers to think about where their bluefin tuna comes from. While Atlantic and Mediterranean stocks have been hammered, Pacific bluefins are in relatively good shape. "We don't want to simply say, 'Don't eat bluefin tuna,' " Yamauchi said, lest the message have unintended consequences for Pacific fishing fleets.