Well, I turn up for the annual talks about tuna quotas at the notorious International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) - aka the International Conspiracy to Catch All the Tuna - in Paris. And guess what? I’m not allowed in.
Now, I’m used to being excluded from ICCAT’s deliberations as a member of the press. Quite used to that. But at all the meetings I have been to before, you are at least allowed into the room where the delegates meet to take coffee between sessions. If you are not, how are you supposed to do your job as a member of the press, canvassing all shades of opinion? How are you supposed to find anybody if the French security people on the outer door say you aren’t allowed inside? I decided to brush past, walk in anyway and find someone to remonstrate with.
The excuse offered this time by the genial Brazilian chairman of ICCAT, Fabio Hazin, was that 100 journalists turned up on the first day, Nov 16, and the little UN commission couldn’t possibly accommodate that many people. I take it as a great triumph for our film, The End of the Line - showing in Paris at an environmental film festival today by the way - that there were so many journos trying to cover ICCAT as normally it’s just me and a mad French film crew. This time the working of ICCAT have become international news. People wait to hear what the commission is going to do about the French payback - the 2500 tons of bluefin caught illegally that theoretically should be subtracted from the French quota next year. They wait to hear whether the commission will set a science-based quota for a change and whether it will finally accept that it is its job to managed the Atlantic’s population of sharks, of which a million are estimated to be killed each year for the Asian market. So what does ICCAT do in response to this new expression of interest by the world’s citizens? It shuts out their representatives, the press, unless, as I managed to do, they can argue that they are actually from a marine organisation. Anyone would think the world’s citizens had no interest in what is, legally, their own property, the sea.