WWF urges endangered species off Manila menus

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Steamed Napoleon wrasse, which appears on the menu of several Manila restaurants, may sound delectable. But savouring it could hasten the extinction of a vanishing species, an international conservation group warned Thursday.

The World Wide Fund for Nature, known as WWF, said it has received reports that several restaurants in the Philippine capital serve the endangered fish, while at least two top Japanese restaurants offer whale meat sushi.

“WWF is appealing to these businesses to stop serving all threatened and endangered animals,” the group said in a statement. “The slaughter and sale of these animals is not only unethical — it is downright illegal under a host of local and international laws.”

Some 40 million Filipinos rely on the sea for sustenance, and “with restaurants still serving endangered species with impunity, we should not be surprised that barely 1 percent of Philippine reefs remain in pristine condition,” WWF said.

Other species that should not be sold include giant groupers, dwarf pygmy gobies, whale sharks, basking and zebra sharks, big-eye and blue-fin tuna, giant manta rays, sea turtles and numerous whale and dolphin species, it said.

Jose Maria Lorenzo Tan, the WWF Philippines president, said Chilean sea bass, a brand name for the Patagonian toothfish that has become vulnerable due to illegal fishing, is sold in most hotels around Makati, Manila’s financial district.

The slow-growing fish inhabits the deep cold sub Antarctic waters, feeds on plankton and is food for whales and seals. While not yet categorized as endangered, Australia, New Zealand and other countries are calling for its classification as an endangered species, said Jose Ingles, a WWF marine program coordinator.

Sharks’ fin, which is widely served in a soup or dumplings in leading Chinese restaurants in the country, also should be off-limits, Tan said.

Muriel Camos, a senior fishing regulation officer at the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, said only one shark species is endangered in the Philippines.

Camos said the government monitors the catching and trade of endangered species from the source to consumers, including restaurants.

The Napoleon wrasse, which was classified as endangered only last year, may have been served in restaurants before it became listed, she said.

She said monitoring food served in restaurants is especially tricky, and non-government groups like WWF should have proof before making allegations.

“How do we know that that is really whale when it is already meat, unless you conduct a DNA test?” she asked.

Source: The China Post