Bluefin tuna sells for record $3.1 million at Tokyo fish market, but scarcity clouds celebration

Decades of overfishing have sent stocks of this top ocean predator to less than four percent of historic levels.

By Simon Denyer and Akiko Kashiwagi
January 5 at 4:00 AM             The Washington Post

TOKYO – A bluefin tuna sold for a record $3.1 million at the first auction of the year at Tokyo’s new fish market on Saturday, but behind the celebrations hides a worrying tale of overfishing and dwindling stocks.

Kiyoshi Kimura, who owns the Sushi Zanmai restaurant chain, paid 333.6 million yen for the 613-lb (278-kg) fish at the first auction of the year, and the first to be held at Tokyo’s new Toyosu fish market after last year’s the move from the famous Tsukiji market.

The price at the predawn auction was nearly 10 times higher than the price paid at last year’s auction — albeit for a considerably smaller fish — and roughly double the previous record, also set by Kimura, in 2013. There was an intense bidding war with a rival buyer who had won last year.

The winner said he was “very satisfied with the quality” of the fish, but admitted he had paid much more than he had expected.

“The tuna looks so tasty and very fresh, but I think I did (pay) a little too much,” Kimura told reporters outside the market later, according to news agencies.

Kimura said a single piece of the tuna would be served to customers in his restaurants later that day.

The fish was caught off the coast of northern Japan’s Aomori prefecture by fishermen from the small town of Oma, which has a nationwide reputation for the quality of its tuna catch.

Bluefin tuna is highly valued for its taste in sushi restaurants, but decades of overfishing have sent stocks plummeting.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species classifies the Pacific Bluefin tuna, or Thunnus orientalis, as “vulnerable,” with a decreasing population.

“The celebration surrounding the annual Pacific bluefin auction hides how deeply in trouble this species really is,” said Jamie Gibbon, associate manager of global tuna conservation at The Pew Charitable Trusts. “Its population has fallen to less than 3.5 percent of its historic size and overfishing still continues today.”

In response to the growing scarcity of the fish, Japan and other governments agreed in 2017 to strict quotas and restrictions on fishing, in an attempt to rebuild stocks from 20 percent of historic levels by 2034.

That has caused considerable unhappiness and some hardship in Oma.

Oma tuna is known as the “black diamond” of tuna, because fishermen still use traditional manual fishing methods, rather than trawling, allowing them to catch the fish intact.

But to stick to the quota, fishermen there said they decided to go slow in the summer and concentrate instead on fishing in the fall and winter, when tuna fetches a higher price. However, when they ventured out, they found tuna harder to find than usual and catches low, leading to fears in November that the Oma tuna could eventually disappear from the nation’s sushi bars — although December’s catch was better.

Hundreds of Japanese fishermen also protested against the new quotas outside the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in June, while Oma also canceled its annual tuna festival in October in protest.

But Gibbon lamented that Japan and other countries were already lobbying for higher catch quotas for 2019, just one year into the 16-year recovery plan, while also noting reports of Japanese fishermen discarding and not reporting dead bluefin to avoid exceeding their quotas.

“It’s time for countries, including Japan, to support Pacific bluefin recovery, fund the necessary science, and commit to enforcing fishing limits, to ensure that there will still be bluefin left to auction,” he said.

Pacific Bluefin tuna reach a maximum length of nearly 10 feet (3 meters) and a maximum weight of 1,200 lbs. (550 kg). A top ocean predator, they have been described as “twice the size of a lion and faster than a gazelle.”

They are built like torpedoes, with a hydrodynamic shape, retractable pectoral (side) fins and, unlike other fish, eyes set flush to their body, according to WWF.

They have two main breeding grounds, off the coast of Japan. Most remain in the western Pacific all their lives, reaching from Russia’s Sakhalin Island in the north to New Zealand in the south. But others, when they reach one to two years of age, make a 6,000-mile (11,000-km) migration to rich waters off California and Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, returning after two to four years to spawn in the same western Pacific waters where they began life, Pew Charitable Trustssay.

Pew says fishermen, mainly from Japan, South Korea and Mexico, often take fish before they reach maturity, which has badly undermined the population.

According to the Mongabay nature news website, bluefin are difficult to rear in captivity. With highly sensitive reactions to light and sound, they rarely spawn in captivity and often swim at top speed and die on impact with the sides of tanks or nets.

 

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/01/05/bluefin-tuna-sells-record-million-tokyo-fish-market-scarcity-clouds-celebration/?utm_term=.aa5387464347

Prosecuting the Chinese Huawei executive is an idiotic way to hold China in check

By Zachary Karabell
Zachary Karabell is the author of several books, including “The Leading Indicators: A Short History of the Numbers That Rule Our World.”

Even if the telecom company poses a national security threat, this is not the way to fight it.


Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, left, appears at a bail hearing in Vancouver, B.C. (Jane Wolsak/Reuters) (Stringer/Reuters)

December 8 at 6:00 AM           The Washington Post

The U.S.-China relationship seemed to improve last week at the G-20 summit in Argentina, where President Trump announced he had reached an important agreement with President Xi Jinping. Then, an ominous development: American authorities asked Canada to arrest the chief financial officer of one of China’s largest technologies companies for alleged sanctions fraud and violations of U.S. export controls. Meng Wanzhou isn’t just a top leader at Huawei, which makes phones and other gadgets; she is also the daughter of the company’s founder and chairman, which makes her arrest somewhat like the Chinese arresting the daughter of Steve Jobs if she had helped run Apple. It would be an understatement to say that Beijing did not react well: It demanded her release and accused the U.S. government of violating the rights of a Chinese citizen.

The timing could hardly be worse, and from what can be told, it reflects the overall chaos of the Trump administration. National security adviser John Bolton claimed he was informed of the pending arrest by the Justice Department but did not pass that information to the president. That no one in the White House considered the implications of her arrest on the tenuous trade truce between China and the United States is itself rather astonishing.

The case against Huawei and its executives may be legitimate under U.S. law, but it is nonetheless a hideous political mistake. Perhaps Huawei used American-made components in equipment it sold to Iran, violating U.S. sanctions. But even in less ambiguous cases, there is always such a thing as prosecutorial discretion. Not every case that can be brought should be brought, and not every case should be prosecuted to the full letter of the law. In international cases, that is doubly true. If the United States wants to respond to China’s rise and manage the changing role of the United States in the international system, it could hardly have picked a dumber tactic.

Huawei is not exactly a noble avatar of social responsibility. Since at least 2016, when President Barack Obama was in office, the Commerce Department has been investigating Huawei for export violations to Iran and North Korea. In the spring of 2017, the Treasury Department opened its own inquiry.

Even before that, though, Huawei operated on the margins of legality. In 2003, Cisco sued it for copying some of the code used in its routers. (Huawei admitted as much before the trial and promised to stop.) In 2012, a House committee named the company as a potential threat to U.S. national security because of its ties to the Chinese government, its legacy of intellectual property theft and its ability to embed spyware in its phones. The United States, Australia and New Zealand have already blocked Huawei from being part of the initial build-out of the next generation 5G telecom networks.

Even if everything alleged is correct, however, the quest against Huawei is a ridiculous overreach — predicated on an assumption that the United States can dictate how foreign competitors conduct business. Yes, the company has deep ties with the Chinese Communist Party, though it’s worth mulling whether those are any more pernicious than the close bonds that connect defense contractors such as Boeing and Lockheed with the Pentagon.

More important, global supply chains are now deeply interconnected and touch multiple countries and numerous companies. Samsung, for instance, is the second largest cellphone provider in Iran, behind Huawei, while the Swedish telecom company Ericsson has been selling equipment to Iran even under the sanctions. Those companies may have done a better job not using American components for products sold to those countries, though with the complexity of global component sourcing, it is unlikely that no American intellectual property has been used by Iranian consumers. Yet U.S. prosecutors are not trying to curtail the work of those mega-technology giants, or aggressively investigating where every component originated.

Samsung and Ericsson, of course, are domiciled in countries that are American allies, whereas Huawei is tightly connected to what is now being seen by many as a prime American adversary. The initial reaction in China, judging by the social media flow and some interviews, is that the Americans are using their legal system to advance political interests in an ongoing contest with China.

There is a long and debated legacy on how far American laws extend. On the one hand, the Supreme Court has recognized a “presumption against extraterritoriality,” which holds that U.S. laws should not be enforced outside the United States. On the other, there are statutes such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which punishes bribery by foreign entities. Sanctions occupy a zone of their own, whereby the U.S. government has acted against other countries by threateningforeign companies that do business with them, if they also do business in the U.S. To the degree that the United States has enjoyed dominant economic power relative to any one country that might object, it has been able to use law enforcement as one tool among many to achieve policy objectives.

That works, however, primarily where there are stark power imbalances, which is clearly not the case with China. Arresting the No. 2 executive of one of the world’s largest technology companies is an ineffective way to achieve policy aims — and a very effective way to complicate negotiations that matter rather more. It’s one thing to ban Huawei’s 5G components from the U.S. market, a defensible response to a perceived threat. That’s an unassailable invocation of American sovereignty (which would still carry a steep economic and political cost).

It’s something else entirely to arrest a very senior executive and potentially try her for evading U.S. export controls. Using law enforcement against individuals for corporate actions of this sort risks backfiring spectacularly. It is easily painted as a crude attempt by the Trump administration to put pressure on Beijing in the coming trade negotiations, even if that is not the actual intent. It exposes American executives to potential retaliation in China and abroad in a tit-for-tat that will chill an already frosty business climate, with direct effects on the domestic American economy and markets. And it may succeed only in pushing technology even further into national camps that compete and develop their own protocols, which appears to be happening with the evolution of artificial intelligence. We can hope to win that competition, but it will prove costlier than the mutual dependence that defined much of the past two decades.

Saudi crown prince exchanged messages with aide alleged to have overseen Khashoggi killing

By Shane Harris and Souad Mekhennet

December 1 at 8:18 PM                          The Washington Post

In the hours before and after journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and a senior aide who allegedly oversaw the assassination exchanged multiple messages, according to people familiar with the matter.

The communications between the two men are another piece of evidence tying the crown prince to the killing of Khashoggi, a former palace insider turned prominent critic, who also was a contributing columnist to The Washington Post.

The CIA included the existence of the messages in its classified assessment that Mohammed is likely to have ordered Khashoggi’s death, a view that agency officials have shared with members of Congress and the White House.

Mohammed exchanged the messages on Oct. 2 with Saud al-Qahtani, one of his closest aides and a fierce public supporter who has kept a blacklist of those he deems disloyal to the kingdom. The content of the messages, and what form the messages took, was not known, according to people familiar with the matter.

Citing portions of the CIA’s written assessment, the Wall Street Journal first reported on Saturday that Mohammed had sent at least 11 messages to Qahtani before and after the killing.

The CIA has rated its assessment that Mohammed was involved in the killing at “medium-to-high confidence,” and privately, officials have said it is inconceivable that the prince, who exercises total authority over the government, could not have known about such an audacious operation. The Post had previously described officials as saying that the CIA had high confidence in its assessment.

“The accepted position is that there is no way this happened without him being aware or involved,” said a U.S. official familiar with the CIA’s conclusions. The CIA has declined to comment, and people familiar with the intelligence said the agency has not found any single piece of evidence that irrefutably links Mohammed directly to the killing.

Trump administration officials on Sunday continued to stress that point and emphasized the importance of the United States maintaining a close relationship with Saudi Arabia. The kingdom has acknowledged that its operatives killed Khashoggi, but it says the operation was not authorized by the crown prince and was undertaken by rogue actors.

“I have read every piece of intelligence that is in the possession of the United States government,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview with CNN on Saturday, “and when it is done, when you complete that analysis, there’s no direct evidence linking him to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”

Pompeo, who declined to comment on the CIA’s classified assessment, said the United States was working closely with Saudi Arabia on major foreign policy issues, including Afghanistan, and that the kingdom was a vital regional counterweight to Iran.

“They are a relationship that has mattered for 70 years across Republican and Democrat administrations alike,” said Pompeo, who previously served as the CIA director. “It remains an important relationship, and we’re aiming to keep that relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said the question of holding the killers responsible and the strategic importance of the U.S.-Saudi relationship were separate issues.

“Accountability for the murder of Khashoggi stands alone. It is distinct from any other factor going on,” Mattis said in remarks at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California.

“Right now, we do not have a smoking gun,” he said, noting that he had seen all the latest intelligence in the matter as of Friday. “We do not have a smoking gun [showing] that the crown prince was involved. We certainly need to continue to explore . . . all aspects of the murder and find anyone who was involved, but that should not in any way dissuade us from basically confronting Iran,” which the Trump administration views as its major adversary in the Middle East and one that Saudi Arabia is essential to confronting.

Qahtani has emerged as a key player in the killing and a compelling link to the prince. He shows up in another portion of the CIA’s assessment: An alleged member of the Saudi hit team that U.S. and Turkish officials said Qahtani oversaw, Maher Mutreb, called Qahtanifrom inside the consulate to inform him Khashoggi was dead, The Post has previously reported. Mutreb, a security official who was often at the crown prince’s side, is seen on security camera footage entering and leaving the consulate on the day Khashoggi was killed.

The U.S. intelligence community also has intercepts of communications before Khashoggi was killed that show Mohammed had ordered an operation to lure him back to Saudi Arabia. Friends of Khashoggi’s have said that Qahtani called the journalist and raised the potential of his working for the crown prince if he would end his self-imposed exile in Virginia and return to his native country.

Communications that the United States intercepted in July show that Mohammed had asked senior Saudi intelligence officials about the status of a plan to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia, according to one intelligence official.

President Trump, who also has been briefed on the CIA’s findings, has been equivocal in assigning blame to the crown prince, who works closely with the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner on Middle East issues.

“Maybe he did or maybe he didn’t!” Trump said in a statement last month, adding that the true culprits might never be known. The president has said that the strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia and the benefit to the U.S. economy from Saudi arms purchases are too important to rupture over the killing of Khashoggi, which he has condemned.

But the latest revelation of intelligence connecting Mohammed and his aide Qahtani to the killing may increase pressure on the administration to take more punitive steps.

The Treasury Department has sanctioned 17 individuals it said were involved in Khashoggi’s death, including Qahtani, Mutreb and the Saudi consul general in Turkey, Mohammad al-Otaibi. But some members of Congress have called for further action, and Republicans have begun defecting from the administration over its support for the Saudis.

Last week, in a rebuke of Saudi Arabia and the administration’s handling of the Khashoggi case, a majority of the Senate voted to advance a measure to end U.S. military support to Saudi Arabia for its war in Yemen against Iranian-backed militants.

Mekhennet reported from Frankfurt, Germany. Missy Ryan in Simi Valley, Calif., and John Hudson and Ellen Nakashima in Washington contributed to this report.

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/saudi-crown-prince-exchanged-messages-with-aide-alleged-to-have-overseen-khashoggi-killing/2018/12/01/faa43758-f5c3-11e8-9240-e8028a62c722_story.html?utm_term=.0b100bb2bd8c