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19 Mar 2010: International Talks Reject
Trade Ban on Atlantic Bluefin Tuna

International negotiators have rejected a proposed ban on the international trade of the Atlantic bluefin tuna, a fish whose populations have dropped 75 percent after decades of overfishing. Delegates at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting in Qatar defeated the proposal by a vote of 72 to 43, with 14 abstentions. Leading the fight against a ban was Japan, where a single giant bluefin tuna — prized for use in sushi — can fetch $175,000. Roughly 80 percent of the global bluefin tuna catch is consumed in Japan. Japanese leaders, who vowed to not comply with a ban, said recovery of the species is better handled by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna, which has so far failed to stop the precipitous drop in bluefin tuna populations. Conservationists harshly criticized the rejection of the ban. Sergi Tudela, head of fisheries at WWF Mediterranean, called the vote “scandalous” and said there was no meaningful debate, despite ample evidence of the species’ depletion and support for a ban by the U.S. and the European Union. The endangered species talks, which will continue until March 25, also rejected a U.S. request for a ban on the international trade of polar bear skins and parts.

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