The Japanese eel, a popular summertime delicacy that has become prohibitively expensive due to overfishing, has been put on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) “Red List” in a move that may speed Japan’s push for industrial farming of the species.
Japan’s agriculture minister urged that efforts to boost the eel population be stepped up after the IUCN this week designated the Japanese eel as “endangered,” facing a very high risk of extinction.
Other species of eel are also facing various levels of threat due to habitat damage and overfishing.
The decision by the IUCN to put the Japanese eel on its red list could lead to global restrictions. Inclusion on the list can be the basis for trade restrictions under an international treaty on trade in endangered animals and plants.
“We must speed up efforts to build large-scale production systems,” Japanese Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters after the IUCN’s decision was announced.
Efforts to farm eels have made slow progress due to the animals complicated migratory patterns. Unlike salmon, which spend their lives at sea and migrate inland to spawn, eels are spawned in remote areas of the ocean and then migrate inland, returning to the sea only to reproduce.
Japan consumes more than two-thirds of all eel eaten, thanks partly to a tradition of eating roasted eel as tonic for the heat during the hottest days of summer. The delicacy is as much a custom of the season as watching fireworks, listening to wind chimes and eating watermelon.
Japanese eel are usually raised to adulthood after being caught as elvers, or glass eels. The elver industry has expanded rapidly to meet demand, putting heavy pressure on the species, as well as many other fish stocks and pushing prices for elvers as high as US$36,000 per kilogram.
In turn, prices for mature eels have soared, turning the traditional kabayaki roasted eel dish, with a tangy sauce on top, into a luxury rather than a common household dish.
A bowl of rice with a slice of roasted eel sells for US$7 to US$10 at Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market. Small packages of roasted eel sold in supermarkets sell for US$15 or more.
The threat to eels has received much less attention than the crisis with some other species, such as bluefin tuna.
Such issues are likely to be among those discussed next week at a US-led “Our Ocean” conference in Washington, US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Fisheries David Balton said.
“A third of all major fish stocks are overfished and another 50 percent are fished at their limit and are in danger of being overfished,” Balton said on a conference call. “The situation for fisheries around the world is not a good one. We need to act to end overfishing.”
Elvers are caught in rivers in Asia and other regions and provided as seed stock for aquaculture. They are a lucrative fishery for New England in the US, where quotas have been set to prevent overfishing.
Japan put the Japanese eel on its own red list of species in danger of extinction last year after the catch of adult eels dropped to 4 percent of the peak of 210 tonnes in the early 1960s.
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
INTERNET CURBS: People are rushing to erase their digital footprints after police given powers over online activity, although it might take years for the full effect to be felt At midnight on Tuesday, the Great Firewall of China, the vast apparatus that limits the country’s Internet, appeared to descend on Hong Kong. Unveiling expanded police powers as part of contentious new national security legislation, the Hong Kong government enabled police to censor online speech, and force Internet service providers to hand over user information and shut down platforms. Many residents, already anxious since the legislation took effect last week, rushed to erase their digital footprint of any signs of dissent or support for the past year of protests. Hong Kong Legislator Charles Mok (莫乃光), a pro-democracy member of the Legislative
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
‘SUICIDE’: Media reports said Park Won-soon went missing on Thursday after a staff member filed a sexual harassment claim against him this week Seoul mayor Park Won-soon, viewed as a potential candidate for the 2022 presidential election, was found dead of an apparent suicide hours after he was reported missing, police said, adding that he was the subject of an undisclosed investigation. In a note he is thought to have left behind on his desk, Park offered his apologies. “I thank everyone who was with me in my life. I apologize to my family for only making them suffer from pain,” according to the note that was released by his office yesterday. Park, in his letter, asked to be cremated and have his remains spread