THE attempt to get an international ban on the fishing of bluefin tuna failed at the Doha, Quatar, meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species this week. By a procedural device scientific discussion was cut short and a snap vote taken which defeated the proposal by 68 to 20 with 28 abstentions. Britain and other EU countries had wanted a temporary ban to replenish stocks of Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin which are very low. Japan is the principal market for bluefin tuna and some eyebrows were raised when sushi and sashimi made with tuna were served to Convention delegates at a Japanese embassy reception. The US Pew Environment Group said: “The market for this fish is just too lucrative and the pressure from fishing interests too great for enough governments to support a sustainable future for the fish.”

Japan has form in this area. The international organisation which controls the killing of whales has a surprisingly large number of African landlocked countries among its membership; most have been proposed by Japan and vote for Japan's persistent attempts to get rid of all controls on whaling. Next week the Doha Convention moves on to the problem of ivory taken from the tusks of poached elephants in Africa. A plan for a 20-year ban on ivory sales is being opposed by Britain and some EU countries although Kenya and some other African countries want it.