Monday, February 05, 2007

Nations to set tuna quotas amid extinction fears

TOKYO (AFP) - Some 40 countries met here to set national quotas for tuna whose total catch has been reduced to prevent the immensely popular fish being hunted to extinction.

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, which includes 43 countries or areas including the European Union, is winding up three days of closed-door talks, Japanese fisheries officials said.

The conservation body is expected to set quotas on the number of fish each member country can catch after deciding to reduce the overall catch last year, the officials said.

In 2006, the European Union had the largest quota at more than 57 percent of the catch, followed by Morocco and then Japan, which sends fleets worldwide to feed its tuna-loving consumers.

The commission decided at a November meeting to reduce the total catch of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic from 32,000 tonnes in 2006 to 29,500 tonnes this year.

The meeting in Croatia also agreed to scale back the catch to 25,500 tonnes by 2010.

Japan last week hosted a conference bringing together the world's five regional tuna conservation bodies for the first time.

The meeting of 60 countries or areas agreed to step up cooperation to monitor tuna populations across regions, although environmentalists were disappointed that it set no new catch limits.

Japan is the world's biggest tuna consumer, eating one quarter of the global catch and fuelling a growing global industry, including in developing island nations.

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