French fishermen vs. media stars in “The Tuna Wars”

French fishermen do not normally cross paths with the stars of stage and screen, but recent environmental fights have put these mismatched groups at odds: At stake is the survival of the bluefin tuna, a single specimen of which can be sold for tens of thousands of dollars – a price that has seen stocks ...

584273_090629_bluefin15.jpg
584273_090629_bluefin15.jpg

French fishermen do not normally cross paths with the stars of stage and screen, but recent environmental fights have put these mismatched groups at odds:

At stake is the survival of the bluefin tuna, a single specimen of which can be sold for tens of thousands of dollars - a price that has seen stocks decline in some areas by up to 90%.

French fishermen do not normally cross paths with the stars of stage and screen, but recent environmental fights have put these mismatched groups at odds:

At stake is the survival of the bluefin tuna, a single specimen of which can be sold for tens of thousands of dollars – a price that has seen stocks decline in some areas by up to 90%.

This month Sienna Miller, Elle Macpherson, Jemima Khan, Sting and others signed a letter to Nobu, a famous upmarket restaurant chain part-owned by Robert De Niro, threatening a boycott of their favourite haunt. Stephen Fry, one of the celebrity campaigners, wrote: “It’s astounding lunacy to serve up endangered species for sushi. There’s no justification for peddling extinction, yet that is exactly what Nobu is doing in restaurants around the world.”

The restaurant has so far refused to take it off the menu, citing its cultural importance in Japan and “enormous demand”, but the battle goes on. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Atlantic bluefin will be wiped out in three years unless radical action is taken.

With fishermen’s revenues falling due to drastically smaller catches, at the same time they’re being cast as “social pariahs,” the workers have grown resentful. Do not fear, though: the French navy is on the case:

And they are now being closely watched. When this year’s season ends next week, France’s fleet of tuna boats will have fished less than its quota of just over 3,000 tonnes. After seriously exceeding limits in previous years, a huge operation involving French navy ships, observers and constant monitoring of a boat’s position and catch has meant “total control and total transparency”, according to Bertand Wendeling, spokesmen for the 11 tuna boats working out of the French port of Sète.

One could almost say it’s a case of (metaphorically) big fish protecting (literally) little fish. 

GAVIN NEWMAN/AFP/Getty Images

James Downie is an editorial researcher at FP.

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