Fishing nations opted Saturday to leave catch limits for eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna virtually unchanged despite concerns that the species is perilously close to collapse.
Annual quotas for the sushi mainstay will be trimmed from 13,500 tonnes this year to 12,900 tonnes in 2011, the 48-member International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) decided at the close of a 10-day meeting in Paris.
Some nations here favoured a much lower cap, or even a suspension of fishing, to ensure bluefin’s long-term viability.
But industry representatives and the governments that back them insisted the new catch limits were sufficient.
"They will make it possible to reach maximum sustainable yield by 2022, which represents a balance between respecting natural resources and preserving the social-economic fabric," said Bruno Le Maire, France’s agriculture and fisheries minister in a statement.
ICCAT scientists calculate that the new catch levels will put eastern Atlantic bluefin on track for a 70 percent chance of reaching sustainability by that date.
The same scientists, however, caution that the data upon which these estimates are based is spotty at best, while conservationists counter that a 30 percent risk of failure is too high.