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Pew Environmental Group Calls for Immediate Steps to Conserve the Atlantic Bluefish Tuna Species

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) has declined to stop fishing for Atlantic bluefin tuna, which is regarded as the most valuable fish in the Atlantic Ocean. Nevertheless, the commission has agreed to restrict its catch limit of bluefin to 13,500. This conclusion was made after a ten day meet. Mexico was permitted to catch 110 of these endangered sharks and other member countries decided that banning the fishing of sharks will be the ideal solution to conserve the bluefin sharks in the Atlantic. Susan Lieberman, Pew Environment Group’s international policy director remarked that the ICCAT, from the time of its existence, was more focused on the short-term commercial benefits of fishing and less on the aspect of conservation. Lieberman argued that unless fishing was completely stopped now, there was no chance for the recovery of the bluefin sharks to the level that would allow for fishery later.

Prior to the meeting, Monaco had proposed to include bluefin tuna on the first appendix of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species. The listing then had the chance of ensuring the stoppage of international trade of bluefin sharks. Pew had provided support for this proposal at the meeting. The Commission's Standing Committee on Research and Statistics analyzed the condition of bluefin tuna prior to the annual meeting and realized that the catching and killing of this species definitely qualifies for a ban.

At a worldwide level, about 73 million sharks are killed every year for the growth of shark trading. This was left unmonitored because of the lack of proper management systems and fishermen were even more encouraged to increase their catching and killing of these sharks because of the profits they receive from this trade. The fins alone are valued at about $300 per pound.

Matt Rand, Shark Alliance coordinator and Global Shark Conservation director for Pew, expressed displeasure with ICCAT’s lack of concerted attention on the long term measures to conserve sharks, particularly of those varieties that have seen a major decline in numbers of late.

With an aim to preserve these species and upset by the lack of interest and support from the ICCAT, Lieberman stated that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) must intervene in the handling these issues and fulfilling other related tasks that ICCAT had failed to observe. CITES, the international treaty mandating global trade in threatened and endangered species, convenes its next meeting in March 2010, in Doha, Qatar.


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