Olly Knowles is an oceans campaigner with Greenpeace. He is currently in Doha, Qatar, following the CITES meeting that could save or fail Atlantic Bluefin Tuna.

CITES COP 15 is now properly up and running and it’s a veritable quagmire of lobby and counter-lobby, I can tell you. The big issue on the table is of course bluefin tuna – and not just for Greenpeace. It’s a key item for the CITES secretariat as well which means it's very high profile. Most of the other NGOs here are also working very hard on the issue – all of this combined is making bluefin a big media story, not least in the national Qatari press, which is useful because delegates are getting free copies every morning.

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It won’t surprise you to hear that the Japanese are here in large numbers and are lobbying aggressively against an Appendix I listing for Atlantic bluefin tuna. Their current strategy is to scare developing nation delegates (especially the West Africans at the moment) with stories of displaced European fleets heading South to raid their waters because they can no longer fish for tuna. It’s nonsense of course – most of the vessels involved in fishing in the Med for instance are nowhere near capable of Atlantic ocean-going fishing or equipped for it – but we are encountering many African delegates who are believing the story. So our efforts, and the efforts of our NGO colleagues, are very much directed at countering this argument at the moment. But it’s not easy – between the official country delegation for Japan, the many Japanese fishing organizations and trade associations that are also here, the Japanese delegation is much larger than usual, way above their usual CITES average. They mean business.

We’ve had some good media on the ground here. Bluefin tuna was a lead article on the front page of the Qatari Gulf Times on the opening day. I’ve also done a head to head on Al Jazeera with a member of the Japanese delegation which went very well for us. I put forward how silly the Japanese position is – if they want to keep eating the stuff, why on earth wouldn’t they support a temporary trade ban to protect it for the long-term. He had difficulty answering.

Other news, the proposed European compromise is obviously a big talking point. The CITES Secretariat has initiated a legal review of the European position which is due to report back in a day or two. It will be interesting to see how this impacts.

You can read more updates from CITES at Charles Clover's blog.

Photo: © Greenpeace / Serendar Celik