Japan says won't comply with bluefin tuna ban

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan will not comply if a total ban on international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna is imposed, a government official was quoted as saying on Thursday, as support grows for the unprecedented trade halt.

Bluefin tuna is a highly valued fish worth up to $200-$300 per kg but stocks have depleted rapidly. It is particularly sought-after in Japan, where a single fish can fetch as much a $100,000.

“If worse comes to worst, Japan will have no choice but to lodge its reservations,” Senior Vice Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Masahiko Yamada, was quoted as saying by Kyodo news agency.

Some 175 countries are due to vote on 40 proposals at a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Doha, Qatar, on March 13-25. The proposals include whether to list bluefin tuna as endangered.

Monaco had proposed protecting bluefin tuna by listing it under appendix I of the CITES.

A two-thirds majority is required for it to be accepted and Japan is expected to fight hard against the ban.

France and Italy have also recently reversed their opposition to a ban. The European Union’s executive said last month that Atlantic bluefin tuna should be protected from being pushed to extinction by Japanese sushi lovers.

Reporting by Yoko Nishikawa; Editing by Paul Tait