Looting the Seas
Raping the world's seas for profit.
by Stephen Lendman
This article follows a previous one on the same topic. It covers work done by the Center for Public Integrity. It involves a multi-part series titled, "Looting the Seas." The initial article discussed the overall problem globally.
On November 7, 2010, Part I covers the "black market in bluefin." It's so highly prized, it's become an endangered species. Worth up to $100,000 each, no wonder overfishing depleted up to 90% of world stocks.
Among other uses, it's a sushi delicacy featured in prominent restaurants from New York to Tokyo. In fact, Japan accounts for about 80% of global bluefin consumption.
Rules restrict catch amounts but no one follows them. Many share blame globally. Fattening tuna in coastal ranches revolutionized the trade. Dragging them live to these operations for fattening precedes shooting them in the head for shipping to Japan and other markets.
To catch offenders, nearly 50 countries (involved in trading Eastern Atlantic bluefin) agreed to create an electronic tracking database to make it harder to smuggle plundered amounts to market. Its value approximates $400 million annually.
With or without rules and electronic checking, governments across the Mediterranean colluded to profiteer. Fattening ranches make bluefin availability year-round. A multi-million dollar enterprise developed with 67 operations across the Mediterranean.
"At the same time, (they became) the epicenter of an off-the-books trade that" decimated world stocks. A flawed system facilitates plundering. Months of work by the International International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). uncovered "rampant (black market) rule-breaking."
From 1998 - 2007, it accounted for one-third of bluefin caught. Cheaters involve fishermen, ranchers, divers, traders, politicians, inspectors and scientists.
Illegal practices include:
- under-reporting catches, amounts towed, caged and sold;
- ranching undersized fish;
- fake releases when caught cheating;
- under-declaring harvests and faking data; and
- illegal cages.
Before ranches, Mediterranean tuna operations lasted three months. Now it's year-round with over-catching. As a result, it's up to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) to save a dying species. It's an intergovernmental body comprised of dozens of countries with vested interests.
So far, rules set aren't followed. Catches way exceed quotas. Even Japan's worried. Its senior ICCAT delegate Masanori Miyahara warned:
"If no set-up is in place for legally carrying out ranching, then it should be stopped for a while, and it should be cleaned up."
At risk is fishing bluefin to extinction. As a result, the world's largest consumer is worried enough perhaps to act. Japanese demand spawned the burgeoning industry. Large purse seine vessels catch 3,000 tuna at a time. Selling them to ranchers, not final buyers, increases profits.