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Monday, March 15, 2010

CITES And False Prophets

The world awaits word from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) summit on a possible Atlantic Bluefin Tuna ban, among other things. Meanwhile, the sponsors of alternative aquaculture schemes promise the world. Says one Japanese entrepreneur:
"Our tuna won't affect the ecological system so that we can help stop draining marine resources," said Takahiro Hama, a director of the company based in the southern Japanese city of Amakusa.

"We have just begun full shipments to the United States," he said. "We hope to provide our sustainable tuna for Japanese sushi bars and restaurants which are concerned about protests from environmental activists."
Several quick thoughts.

The suggestion that because these fish are farm-raised they don't consume "marine resources" is a fraud. They'll need to eat marine life of some sort in order to grow into the massive swimming sushi platters that companies like Hama envisage. Unless they're being fed chickens.

Second, the cynicism embodied in that statement about the U.S. market is mind-boggling. It's indeed heartening -- though dubious, in my view -- to think that environmental activists have that much clout in any sustained way. But to think that a primary selling point to restaurants is that they can avoid those huge, roving bands of picketing activists!

It also punches a hole in the laissez-faire argument whose underlying assumption is that economic actors would never piss in their own well. Because if that were the case, restaurateurs would be interested in sustainable fishing because they're ruining the planet, not our of fear of the occasional letter from 3rd-graders complaining that they're asking their mommies and daddies to boycott the place.

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