TOKYO -- Japanese fish dealers on Friday welcomed the rejection of a proposed trade ban on Atlantic bluefin tuna -- a prized ingredient of sushi -- while urging that existing quotas be more strictly enforced to protect the species from overfishing.
Thursday's vote at a U.N. meeting in Doha, Qatar, rejecting the ban was front-page news in all major Japanese newspapers Friday morning.
Japan consumes about 80% of the world's Atlantic bluefin tuna, and the possibility of a ban had consumers and fish wholesalers worried that prices for the pink and red meat of the fish -- called hon-maguro here -- would soar or that it might even vanish from some menus.
Stocks of the fish have fallen by 60% from 1997 to 2007, and environmentalists argue that a trading ban imposed by the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, would protect the fish.
But the Japanese government and fishing industry say an outright trading ban is too drastic a step, and that catch quotas set by another body, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, should be more strictly enforced to protect the species. In November, ICCAT cut the annual global quota by 40%, to 13,500 tons.