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2012年7月28日 (土)

ウナギ取引規制 日本の食文化を守る戦略

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jul. 28, 2012)
Strategy needed to protect Japanese food culture
ウナギ取引規制 日本の食文化を守る戦略を(7月27日付・読売社説)

It is a worrisome development for the preservation of Japan's food culture.

The U.S. government is considering making eel subject to trade restrictions under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), also known as the Washington Convention.

Among the eel covered by the U.S. proposal are Japanese eel, or Anguilla japonica, a species widely consumed in Japan, and American eel, or Anguilla rostrata. Under the U.S. proposal, trade in these types of eel would require an export approval certificate from the exporting country.

The U.S. government is expected to decide as early as this autumn whether it will formally make a proposal to a conference of signatory countries of the Washington Convention scheduled for March.

The proposal would not make eel subject to a total trade ban under CITES. Should restrictions be introduced, however, it would inevitably affect Japan, as imported eel accounts for 70 percent to 80 percent of domestic consumption.

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry has to pay close attention to the U.S. move and work out a comprehensive strategy aimed at securing a stable supply of eel.


Marked decline in eel resources

The United States is calling for the protection of eel, primarily in light of the fact that eel resources are declining markedly around the world due to overfishing and global warming.

European eel, or Anguilla anguilla, is already subject to trade restrictions under the Washington Convention, due to a decision made in 2007, based on a proposal by the European Union.

Because of this, Japan imports most of its eel for domestic consumption from China and Taiwan, where Japanese eels are cultured.

At home, catches of young eels for culturing have been unprecedentedly poor for three years in a row. The total catch of young eels, called glass eels, is less than 5 percent of the peak about 50 years ago.

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Akira Gunji says glass eels are not currently in a state of depletion. But we must not be complacent.

At the previous conference of CITES signatory nations in 2010, the United States and European countries proposed a ban on trade in Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna. By bringing developing countries over to its side, Japan narrowly prevented the proposal from being adopted at the conference.

Like bluefin tuna, most eel caught around the world is consumed by Japanese people. This makes it all the more necessary for Japan to take the lead in making an earnest effort to preserve eel and manage their resources, so as to win the understanding of the international community.

It is essential for Japan to expedite its efforts to take necessary measures in cooperation with China and Taiwan.


Not enough known about eels

The ecology of eels has yet to be elucidated sufficiently. Although researchers succeeded in fully culturing eels from eggs in 2010, full culturing is far from being conducted on a commercial basis. Also needed are techniques to produce glass eels on a large scale, and surveys and research on spawning and their migrational routes.

If Japan fails to deal appropriately with the likely trade restrictions, the already rising price of eel may go up further. Such developments would not only threaten the business of eel culturers and restaurants, they would make eel into a luxury food out of reach for ordinary people.

Today is the midsummer day of the ox. We should tax our brains so we can continue eating broiled eel in sweet sauce.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 27, 2012)
(2012年7月27日01時27分  読売新聞)


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