Going, Going, Gone? Berlin Wants Help for Waning Bluefin Tuna Stocks

The plight of the Atlantic bluefin tuna is at the forefront of a European spat. Germany has spoken out in favor of the European Commission's plans to protect flagging fish stocks. Fishing nations France, Spain and Italy, however, want to maintain current catch levels for the favorite sushi dish.

Photo Gallery: Time to Save the Tuna Photos
AFP

Berlin has positioned itself against France by calling for more protection for the bluefin tuna, the Atlantic species which has been overfished due to the booming sushi market.

During the 10-day long meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), Germany has urged the European Commission to push for less tuna to be caught -- to give the species a chance to restore its waning population.

"We need very effective and strict controls, drawn up on the basis of scientific studies, so that the bluefin tuna can sustainably recover," was the message from Ilse Aigner's Agriculture Ministry in Berlin.

Studies have shown that the bluefin tuna stocks have shrunk by more than 80 percent since the 1970s. Indeed, a multibillion dollar business has built up around the species, propelled by the sushi industry's appetite for the deep red colored fish.

Fish on the Brink

At present, the annual catch of bluefin tuna stands at 13,500 tons, but NGOs including Greenpeace and WWF want to see that figure slashed to 6,000 tons.

France, Spain and Italy, which all have large fishing fleets, rejected EU Commissioner Maria Damanaki's suggestions to protect the endangered fish, saying that current quotas should be maintained.

ICCAT is responsible for setting catch quotas and restrictions on stocks of more than 30 species including the bluefin tuna, sharks, swordfish and mackerel. The 48 member nations of ICCAT will debate the issue in Paris until Nov. 27, 2010.

Berlin wants the ICCAT to put the future of the fish ahead of short-term financial gain. "The sustainable management of european and international fish stocks must be the main goal of fisheries policy," said an Aigner spokesman.

jas/spiegel -- with wire reports

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