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 user 2007-12-20 at 3:11:00 pm Views: 39
  • #19052

    Sushi sales and shrinking stocks
    early morning, the last tuna of the day – a giant, glistening yellowfin
    as big as the fishermen who had hauled it ashore – was already gutted
    and cleaned, and ready for John Heitz to pass judgement.Fish can travel
    from port to plate within 25 hoursMr Heitz, a lanky, amiable American
    who has been in the tuna business for 20 years, took out a
    two-foot-long, hollow needle, and pushed it into the fish’s
    side.”Good,” he declared, inspecting a thin worm-like sample of fresh
    sashimi. “Ice it and pack it.”Within 30 minutes, the tuna would be
    joining 50 others at the local airport.Within 24 hours it would
    probably be raw and pink on someone’s plate at a sushi restaurant in
    San Francisco.

    Diminishing stocks
    Every day of the year, some
    200 tons of fresh tuna are brought ashore at the quayside in this
    crowded port city at the southern edge of Mindanao island.But the size
    of the catch is shrinking ominously, and today almost everyone involved
    in the industry here acknowledges that it is heading into deep
    trouble.”It’s getting worse,” said John Heitz. “There are just too many
    people chasing too few fish. It seems like the industry is in denial.
    Taiwanese boats, mainline Chinese, South Korean, Japanese, European -
    everybody is fishing.”

    Low local catches mean many farmers seek fish in distant waters
    radical change, he warned, “the industry will not survive”.Tuna is one
    of the world’s favourite fish – from cans and steaks to the luxury
    sashimi market.But in the past few decades, as demand has soared, the
    fleets chasing these migratory animals around the world’s oceans have
    grown dramatically in size and sophistication.

    Factory ships now stay at sea for years at a time, using giant “purse-seine” nets to catch entire shoals.
    has become a murky, ferociously competitive business, with a
    significant percentage of tuna, between 15-50% according to various
    estimates, “poached” by unlicensed operators who deliberately obscure
    the catch’s origins.Standing on the quayside, watching the controlled
    frenzy of a dozen boats being unloaded at once, Roger Lim – one of
    General Santos’ most prominent fishermen with a fleet of more than 100
    boats – sounded pessimistic.”In 15 years there will be no more tuna,”
    he said.

    High-tech boats
    Mr Lim’s boats all use traditional
    baited fishing lines to catch individual yellowfin tuna, primarily for
    the US and European steak and sashimi markets.This method is, he says,
    sustainable. “We don’t catch the small, immature fish. If all boats
    used handlines, there would be no overfishing.”This business is getting
    dangerous and risky. And life is getting harder

    Japan’s food crisis
    turned and pointed accusingly along the quayside, to where the
    purse-seine boats were unloading their own catch of smaller, skipjack
    tuna, destined for the canneries on the edge of town.”They will destroy
    our waters,” he said. “We need the government to intervene.”Marfenio
    Tan, 61, has been chasing tuna since he was 12.Today, he owns 10
    purse-seine boats in General Santos and – since there are few tuna left
    in the waters around the Philippines – a licence to fish off the coast
    of Papua New Guinea.”We want a long-term industry,” he said.”Everybody
    must do conservation,” said Mr Tan, pointing to new regulations halving
    the number of days he is now allowed to fish in the waters of Papua New

    Policing the seas
    “We are just starting to implement a programme to save the tuna.”For us to have a future, everyone must obey the law,” he said.

    Mad about food
    week exploring the global food supply chain and its impact on the
    environment. Join our interactive debate every day at 1530 GMT on BBC
    News 24.
    But he acknowledged that many bigger ships were simply
    ignoring the new rules, and that the Philippines’ navy, like many
    others in the region, was unable to police the seas effectively.”And
    now China is starting to buy and fish for tuna too,” he said. “If they
    develop a taste for it, then they will take everything.”For millions of
    subsistence fishermen, living in coastal communities around the
    Pacific, the decline in tuna stocks is already having a profound
    effect.Half an hour’s drive from General Santos, on the far side of the
    bay, the impoverished village of Kawas is struggling.”A few years back,
    we would catch the tuna just off-shore – maybe one day’s sail from
    here,” said Raul Meijia, 38.Now it takes five-to-seven days to reach
    the nearest fishing grounds, which are located, inconveniently, in
    Indonesian waters.Mr Meijia’s neighbour has just come home after three
    months in an Indonesian prison, having been caught poaching.”This
    business is getting dangerous and risky,” said Mr Meijia. “And life is
    getting harder.”

    Dead fish surface on Indian river
    of dead fish have been washed ashore in a river in the north-eastern
    Indian state of Assam river since early this week.They were discovered
    on the banks of the Brahmaputra river in the state capital, Guwahati.An
    equal number of sick fish were found in the same place, officials said.
    They blamed rising pollution levels.An investigation has been ordered
    by the Assam government, said C.K.Bhuiyan, senior district official in

    ‘Zero pollution’
    Earlier in the year, the Assam
    Pollution Control Board (APCB) told all the oil refineries in the state
    to achieve “zero pollution” levels by 31 December, otherwise they would
    be threatened with closure.The Guwahati refinery was found to be the
    worst polluting refinery and was perhaps the only one in Assam not to
    have yet complied, pollution control board officials said.”The marine
    life in the Brahmaputra river has been seriously affected by the
    pollution caused by these refineries, particularly the Guwahati
    refinery,” said Jawaharlal Dutta, APCB chairman.He alleged that
    pollution from these refineries was several hundred times above the
    permissible limits.But district officials who are monitoring the
    development were not ruling out other possible causes.”It could be a
    case of poisoning caused by water pollution or maybe an outcome of some
    kind of explosion inside the water to catch fish in large numbers from
    the river. We are not ruling out either possibility at this moment,” Mr
    Bhuiyan said.Killing of fish by using explosives and chemical
    fertilisers or other poisonous substances is not uncommon in Assam,
    especially during the winter.