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Progress made on protecting sharks, but none on Atlantic bluefin tuna, environmental groups say

Bluefin Meeting

PARIS — An international conservation conference in Paris made progress Saturday on protecting sharks but didn't do anything to save the Atlantic bluefin tuna, which has been severely over-fished to feed the market for sushi in Japan, environmental groups said.

Delegates from 48 nations spent 11 days in Paris haggling over fishing quotas for the Atlantic and Mediterranean, poring over scientific data and pitting the demands of environmentalists against those of the fishing industry.

Conservation groups said delegates took steps in the right direction with moves to protect oceanic white tip sharks and many hammerheads in the Atlantic, though they had hoped for more. Sharks were once an accidental catch for fishermen but have been increasingly targeted because of the growing market in Asia for their fins, an expensive delicacy used in soup.

WWF, Greenpeace, Oceana and the Pew Environment Group all strongly criticized the 2011 bluefin quotas set by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, or ICCAT, which manages tuna in the Atlantic and Mediterranean as well as species that have traditionally been accidental catches for tuna fishermen.

Environmental groups had hoped to see bluefin fishing slashed or suspended, saying illegal fishing is rampant in the Mediterranean and that scientists don't have good enough data to evaluate the problem.

The commission agreed to cut the bluefin fishing quota in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean from 13,500 to 12,900 metric tons annually -- about a 4% reduction. It also agreed on measures to try to improve enforcement of quotas on bluefin, prized for its tender red meat.

Sushi Sergi Tudela, head of WWF Mediterranean's fisheries program, attacked the "measly quota reduction." Oliver Knowles, Greenpeace oceans campaigner, complained that "the word 'conservation' should be removed from ICCAT's name."

Russell F. Smith, representing the U.S. delegation, told the AP, "I think we made some progress. I wish we'd made more."

Meanwhile, the French fishing industry union praised the decision, saying "reason prevailed."

The international commission's committee of scientists had said keeping the status quo was acceptable, but environmentalists say there is so much unreported fishing that doing so is irresponsible.

Japan buys nearly 80% of the annual Atlantic bluefin catch. Top-grade sushi with fatty bluefin can go for as much as 2,000 yen ($24) apiece in high-end Tokyo restaurants.

Although the focus of the Paris meeting was tuna, sharks have become a growing concern. Environmentalists say there are disastrously inadequate rules on shark capture.

Although there are elaborate international fishing regulations and quotas for other types of fish, sharks have long been an afterthought, even though some species have declined by 99%, Oceana said.

The international commission banned fishermen from catching and retaining oceanic whitetip sharks. It voted to limit the catch of several types of hammerhead sharks and to require countries to keep data on shortfin mako sharks.

Delegates also decided that Atlantic fishermen will now be required to carry special gear to remove hooks from sea turtles.

While the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas and other regional commissions regulate fishing, trade bans are handled by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Environmentalists were sorely disappointed by a meeting of that body in March, at which Atlantic bluefin and six species of sharks failed to get protection.

Shark attack survivors urge U.N. to protect sharks
Virginia researcher works to save Atlantic sturgeon

-- Angela Doland, Associated Press

Top photo: Delegates at the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) meeting in Paris on Nov. 19. Credit: Francois Guillot / AFP/Getty Images

Bottom photo: A fish seller prepares tuna for sale in Tokyo's Tsukiji Fishermen's Market on Nov. 17. Credit: Everett Kennedy Brown / European Pressphoto Agency

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Bluefin Tuna Boycott: Join the Bluefin Brigade: Take the pledge.

Please sign our pledge not to eat bluefin tuna and to boycott restaurants that serve it: http://www.bluefinboycott.org.

The bluefin tuna, one of the world’s most remarkable ocean creatures, is in trouble and needs your help. Overfishing is driving this mighty warm-blooded fish toward the brink of extinction, and yet many sushi restaurants continue to serve it. To save the species, the Center for Biological Diversity has launched a boycott on eating bluefin tuna and patronizing restaurants that sell bluefin in the hopes of raising awareness about the fish’s plight and shutting down the consumer demand for this critically imperiled fish.


Wow, four humans died in in three years (according to ALL-CAPS poster #2) by jumping into, or surfing into water they knew perfectly well had sharks in it and all of a sudden sharks are evil creatures who deserve no protection? Beyond the fact of how many sharks died at human hands in the same period, despite the fact that humans have a whole lot more they could be doing than killing animals for sport (which, like sharks or not, I think most people grasp that sharks don't kill for entertainment), using your twisty logic we should also ban tubs, since in that same time period many more people died slipping in their own tubs.

Perhaps we should ban cars too because the stats on people dying in car accidents dwarf BOTH sharks and bathtubs. How many people got struck by lightning? We should probably ban the sky.

If I go stand in front of a steamroller I stand a mighty good chance of getting smooshed. If I jump into a shark's neighborhood, which is a deliberate choice, I stand a good chance of getting attacked. The stats on sharks walking into PEOPLE'S homes are astonishingly low.


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