Just a few days ago, a proposal to ban all international trade of bluefin tuna, put forth by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), was voted down 68 to 20 at a United Nations meeting in Doha, Quatar. In spite of the opposition to the proposal, there is strong evidence that questions the sustainability of bluefin tuna trade.

Photo by Robert Gilhooly – japanphotojournalist.com

The Atlantic bluefin tuna stock has declined significantly over the past 30 years, primarily due to excessive fishing. The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), an intergovernmental body that has been responsible for the conservation of bluefin tuna, set a quota of 19,950 tons in 2009; CITES estimated that the actual volume in trade exceeded 50,000 tons.

Photo by David Guttenfelder – AP

The Mitsubishi Corporation responded to the concerns regarding bluefin tuna in 2008 by establishing their “Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Sourcing Policy” based on four core principles:

  • Maintaining healthy bluefin tuna populations: use of scientific evidence
  • Minimizing By-catch: only work with suppliers who minimize by-catch
  • Monitoring Systems: transparency with suppliers
  • Stakeholder Engagement: open discussion with all interested parties

In spite of this however, Mitsubishi has been under attack in the press with organizations like World Fishing Today:

By its own estimates, Mitsubishi controls 35 to 40 percent of that stock. Commenting on that, Mitsubishi admits that it deep-freezes some of its catch to smooth out short-term supply, some environmentalists believe the company is attempting to corner the bluefin market and hoard inventories as supply continues its downward spiral.

It will be interesting to see how Mitsubishi will respond to what is sure to be an even greater attack on their supply chain management as a result of the rejection of the tuna ban in Qatar.

—Gordon Glogau

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