DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — After defeating a proposal in 2010 to ban the export of an endangered fish that is a key ingredient of sushi, Japan and Asian nations argued it should be left to quota-setting international fisheries bodies to bring the species back from the brink.
Two years on, their strategy for rebuilding stocks of Atlantic Bluefin tuna appears to be working.
Thanks in part to a sharp reduction in the amount of fish legally caught, the bluefin population in the Atlantic is on the rebound though “the magnitude and speed of the increase vary considerably,” according to a stock assessment by scientists released ahead of the annual International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas which starts Monday in Morocco.
“We have been working and campaigning on the issue of bluefin tuna for 12 years so to finally see signs of a recovery trend is good news”, said Sergi Tudela, head of the fisheries program at WWF Mediterranean.
“We need to see how the recovery trend progresses over time,” he said. “In the meantime, we cannot lower our guard, management efforts need to be maintained and even strengthened. Bluefin tuna fisheries management will not become a success overnight.”
Environmentalists are calling on the 48 nations in ICCAT to endorse scientific recommendations to keep the current quotas of 14,200 tons (12,900 metric tons) a year intact for the next three years. They will also be pushing for increased protection for other threatened species, including shortfin mako and porbeagle sharks as well as blue marlin and white marlin.
“This year is really a test year for ICCAT,” said Amanda Nickson, director of the Global Tuna Conservation Campaign at the Pew Environment Group.
“The stock assessment results seem to indicate there may be the possibility of a glimmer of recovery but it’s so uncertain at the moment,” she said. “This is the first year where they will have to stick to science even if does look like there is a bit of good news. So it’s important from our perspective we retain pressure on governments at ICCAT to listen to that science. Our key message is hold those quotas where they are.”