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US mulls restrictions on eel trade

Publication Date : 19-07-2012


The US government is considering a proposal to regulate imports and exports of eels at a meeting of signatories of the Washington Convention next year, according to sources, a move that could push up eel prices in Japan.

Japan relies on imports for more than 80 per cent of the eel consumed in the nation, according to the Fisheries Agency.

Partly due to a fall in catches of young fish, eel prices in Japan have been on the rise. The US proposal, if accepted at the meeting to be held in March in Thailand, may result in further price surges for eel.

Currently among 18 eel species in world commerce, import and export restrictions are in place only for European eels. Exports are permitted only if governments judge trade will cause no resource management problems.

The US government's planned proposal aims to place all of the 17 other species under the same restrictions as those for European eel.

One reason is that environmental organisations have demanded the US government take such action due to fears of further declines in eel populations.

At a press conference Tuesday, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Akira Gunji warned that if the restriction is implemented, "supply and demand for eels in this nation, which relies on imports, will be seriously affected".

In 2010, at the previous meeting of signatories of the Washington Convention, also known as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, a ban on international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna was proposed, but Japan obtained support from developing countries and was able to have the proposal narrowly voted down.

However, in the case of eels, Japan consumes about 70 per cent of the total catch. If the US government actually submits the proposal, it is uncertain whether Japan will be able to garner enough ballots to vote it down.


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