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Bluefin: Will You Be the Last to Eat One?

Hold the bluefin tuna—please. That's what scientists were urging last week at the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT). Unless there's a total ban on catching Atlantic bluefin tuna this year, scientists argued, populations might collapse and never recover. (Next up would be the Southern and Pacific bluefin, and then... good-bye sushi.) Unfortunately, the fishing industry has a long history of ignoring scientific advice. And, this year, ICCAT agreed to reduce the number of tuna it would catch but still fish more than scientists were recommending:

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna, ICCAT, reduced the total allowable catch for 2010 to 13,500 metric tonnes down from 22,000 tonnes in 2009. ...

As an additional precaution, it was that agreed that, if in the course of 2010, ICCAT scientists detect a serious risk of stock collapse, the fishery for Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin might be suspended completely.

The European Commission lauded this compromise, but scientists and conservation groups in the United States warned that this was still far higher than the limits necessary to save the species. "There is a strong likelihood that someone in this generation will be the last human to eat a bluefin tuna," says The Atlantic's Barry Estabrook. The bluefin’s last, best hope for survival might lie with another group with a long acronym: CITES, or the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna. They’ll meet in March 2010 to consider a proposal to ban international trade of the bluefin altogether. If that fails, we'll have one more example confirming Daniel Pauly's argument that the end of fish is closer than we'd like to think.

(Flickr photo credit: WWF International)