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Conservationists Meet To Avert Feared Tuna Extinction

An international commission in November reduced the world's gross catch of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean from 32,000 tons in 2006 to 29,500 tons this year, a move likely to lead to an import crunch in Japan.
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Jan 22, 2007
Environmentalists called Monday for a radical overhaul of fishing practices to prevent a worldwide collapse in tuna stocks as international conservation bodies opened their first joint meeting on the species. The five-day meeting in the western Japanese city of Kobe will look at ways to share information among regions to monitor tuna numbers and control illegal fishing vessels, officials said.

Environmentalists called on participants to come up with substantive measures to protect the fish, which are highly prized in Japan.

Greenpeace said it was "high time" for governments to recognize the seriousness of the tuna issue.

Governments "must acknowledge that a radical change to fisheries management is urgently required if they are to prevent the collapse of tuna stocks across the globe," it said.

Simon Cripps, director of the WWF's global marine programme, said the talks in Japan "provide an opportunity for all interested nations to adopt approaches that ensure good practices to protect tuna, other marine life and the well-being of coastal communities."

He said scientific advice to governments about conservation measures has gone ignored for too long.

"Sustainable management of the world's tuna fisheries should be possible, if the will can be found," he said in a statement.

The meeting is expected to adopt an action plan Friday to cooperate on the conservation and management of tuna stocks, said Takaaki Sakamoto, a Japanese official attending the conference.

"Our goal should be to achieve sustainable use of tuna resources for the future and to prove both domestically and internationally that maintaining tuna fishing is possible," Toshiro Shirasu, the head of Japan's Fisheries Agency, said in opening remarks.

Two international fishing industry groups have called on the meeting to declare a moratorium on the use of any additional large tuna vessels to stop the stocks from diminishing further.

The meeting brings together five tuna conservation bodies that cover different regions, including the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean. Representatives of 60 countries or areas are taking part, officials said.

Japan eats a quarter of the world's tuna, more than any other country, but faces pressure from environmentalists, who have blamed the global fad for Japanese food for bringing tuna numbers to the brink of eventual extinction.

An international commission in November reduced the world's gross catch of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean from 32,000 tons in 2006 to 29,500 tons this year, a move likely to lead to an import crunch in Japan.

Japan has also accepted a major cut in its quota for southern bluefin tuna in the Pacific Ocean as punishment for overfishing.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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