|A tuna fish|
TOKYO, Nov 16, 2009 (AFP) - Japan, the world's largest consumer of bluefin tuna, hailed a 40 percent quota cut agreed in Brazil in hopes it will preempt a complete trade ban, a fisheries official said Monday.
The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) has agreed to slash the total catch in the eastern Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea from 22,000 tons this year to 13,500 tons for 2010.
Environmentalists warn that bluefin tuna faces the threat of extinction because of overfishing and want its trade banned by CITES, an international body that sets rules against illegal wildlife trade.
"Japan welcomes the outcome" of the Brazil meeting, said a Fisheries Agency official. "Now the (CITES) convention has become a hot topic this year. We want to control the fish population under the ICCAT, not anything else."
"Japan has supported a policy on sustaining resources based on scientific data, so we can continue catching the fish sustainably in future," said the official who spoke on a condition of anonymity.
ICCAT quotas are systematically exceeded by industrial fleets. That and illegal fishing have caused the bluefin tuna population to fall by more than 85 percent in the eastern Atlantic and over 90 percent in the western Atlantic.
Japan, which consumes more than 80 percent of tuna caught in the Mediterranean, endorsed the ICCAT proposal and agreed to reduce its own catch quota accordingly by 38.6 percent to 1,148 tons.
Environmental groups are now backing a call from Monaco for the issue to be taken before a March meeting of CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, with the aim of declaring the fish endangered and putting a ban on catching it.
The Brazil meet also agreed to suspend all bluefin tuna catches in 2011 if its scientific committee shows stocks are continuing to decline.
ICCAT was set up in the late 1960s to conserve "tuna and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean and adjacent seas," according to its website.
Forty-eight countries in every region of the world -- from Algeria, Barbados, China and France, to Ivory Coast, Japan, the United States and Venezuela -- are contracting parties to ICCAT.