Restaurant group Relais & Chateaux recently announced that it has banned bluefin tuna from the menus of its 475 establishments. The group joins a growing number of chefs and restaurateurs who are taking the initiative to ban the endangered species in the face of any substantial political movement on the issue.
“In 20 years, 80% of resources of tuna have disappeared,” said Olivier Roellinger, chef and vice president of the global luxury hotel and restaurant group, which made the decision to boycott the tuna from January 1 of this year. “According to several studies, the fish that we eat everyday will disappear between 2040 and 2050. The bluefin is certainly only the tip of the iceberg, but it is also a symbol because it has almost completely disappeared. By banning it, we may still be able to save it.”
The group, with establishments in 57 countries, has adopted a charter which states that beyond bluefin tuna, it is committed to no longer serving any endangered species, and to source only sustainable seafood. This would take into account the fishing method used, stock status and if fish are of a reproductive age before being caught.
The decision comes at a time when many European politicians are reluctant to ban fishing of the overexploited species. On Wednesday France’s fisheries minister opposed plans to ban bluefin fishing though backed restricting the trade of it outside the EU. The country’s large bluefin fishing fleet has urged the government to resist pressure from green groups when it decides whether to back adding bluefin to a list by CITES, the convention to protect threatened species. French president Nicholas Sarkozy stated last year he was behind the move to add bluefin to CITES, but has not reaffirmed his stance since then, with environmentalists fear he may have backed down.
“There is a terrifying urgency regarding the issue of the ocean’s supplies, and we must increase awareness of this as soon as possible” urged Roellinger. “The idea is that if all the chefs in the world join forces, we can help make a difference.”