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Activists Say Fishing Limit Not Enough to Save Bluefin Tuna

Bluefin tuna being cut up on a Japanese fishing vessel

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This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

An international group has set the limit for next year's catch of bluefin tuna in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea. The limit is just under thirteen thousand metric tons. That is six hundred tons less than this year's quota, a reduction of four percent.

Conservation groups criticized the move, saying the cut is not big enough to support the recovery of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean.

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas set the catch late last month in Paris. Delegates to the commission represent the governments of forty-eight fishing nations.

In two thousand six, the commission established a plan to stop overfishing. The goal is to rebuild bluefin populations in the eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean by twenty twenty-two.

The European Commission had called for reducing next year's catch to six thousand tons to improve the chances for the huge and highly valuable fish. But Mediterranean members of the European Union rejected that proposal even before the ten-day meeting began.

Still, EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki said the meeting took "a step in the right direction for sustainable management" of bluefin tuna.

The fishing industry wanted to keep the existing catch limit.

Atlantic bluefin can grow three meters long and weigh as much as six hundred fifty kilograms. France, Italy and Spain catch most of the Atlantic bluefin eaten in the world. Most of the catch goes to Japan.

Japan called for stronger action against illegal fishing and under-reporting of bluefin catches.

Conservation activists say the eastern Atlantic has only about one-fourth as many bluefin tuna as it did in the nineteen fifties. And the population in the western Atlantic has dropped by more than eighty percent since nineteen seventy.

Environmental groups say illegal fishing and under-reporting might mean there are even fewer bluefin than estimates suggest.

The Center for Biological Diversity, an activist group, recently launched a boycott of the prized fish. It says thousands of people around the world have signed a promise not to eat bluefin tuna or spend money at sushi restaurants that still serve it.

Susan Lieberman of the Pew Environment Group in Washington says people should care what happens to fish that are important to the environment of the sea.

SUSAN LIEBERMAN: "Management of fish species on the high seas is not just about making sure people have nice seafood when they go to a restaurant. It is about the very future of our planet."

And that’s the VOA Special English Agriculture Report. I’m Bob Doughty.


Contributing: Arash Arabasadi, Jerilyn Watson and Reuters