President Sarkozy announced Thursday that France was going to back a ban in the international trade of endangered bluefin tuna -- a significant step since France has the biggest tuna fleet in the Atlantic. "Ours is the last generation with the ability to take action before it's too late," Sarkozy said.
Then, Britain followed suit and announced that it too would back listing bluefin tuna on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). This has added political momentum to an effort started by tiny Monaco -- the first nation to go bluefin free.
Although France has the biggest fleet, it doesn't actually consume all that much bluefin. The tuna caught in the Atlantic and Mediterranean largely ends up in Japan, so if trade is banned, the species has a chance of rebounding -- eventually. Studies have estimated that in a few years, there will be no tuna of breeding age left in the Atlantic, meaning the commercial extinction of the species is in sight.
"Clearly President Sarkozy has had advice that there is little left to catch and so he might as well come out smelling of roses," Charles Clover, author of End of the Line, told me via email. He adds more insight on his blog.
What's less clear is the US position, since bluefin can migrate over the entire Atlantic and also breed in the Gulf. Hopefully, the US will get on board and support this trade ban before there's no more bluefin tuna left to protect. Whether the tuna will be able to avoid the fate northern cod, which crashed and never rebounded, is another question.
Meanwhile, chefs such as Nobu and his notable restaurateur partner Drew Nieporent are still serving the fish, despite Nieporent's blather about doing "the right thing."
- Samuel Fromartz