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Nations to increase fishing quota for Atlantic bluefin tuna

Countries fishing the eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean have agreed to expand the annual quota for prized bluefin tuna to reflect an improvement in their stocks.

Two officials at the meeting in Morocco of the 50-nation International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas said that countries would hike the quota from 24,000 tons this year to 28,000 next year, with a further 4,000 added in each of the following two years.

The decision means the quota has more than doubled from five years ago, when hopes for a recovery of the once depleted stocks were first envisaged.

Bluefin tuna is a delicacy in sushi and sashimi dishes the world over.

Environmentalists will be disappointed since they maintain that the recovery of the bluefin is still far too fragile to permit a major increase in fishing quotas. They were willing to accept a slight increase but not the number that was agreed on Tuesday.

Considering how many species have been overfished to near commercial extinction in the past few decades, from cod off eastern Canada to Mediterranean bluefin, the challenge of increasing catch quotas and still safeguarding stocks is daunting and fraught with risk.

Some environmental groups are troubled by the ICCAT's scientific findings and think they might be overly optimistic.

But influential partners like the 28-nation European Union and Japan believe the scientific advice has underpinned a rise in the annual catch quota to 36,000 tons by 2020.

The EU said it is moving from bluefin recovery to management of the stocks and will close off some loopholes in the system to improve efficiency.

Bluefin tuna's annual market value stands around 200 million US dollars (£151 million) at the dock and four times more at the final point of sale.

AP

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