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Int’l Committee Considers Trade Ban on CT Sushi Delicacy

March 15, 2010

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Bluefin tuna has a reputation in Connecticut sushi bars as delicious and expensive - and "endangered" may soon be added to that list of adjectives. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species is meeting this week to consider a ban on international trade of bluefin - a tuna that fishermen can sell for up to $100,000 each.

Pew Environment Group director of International Policy Sue Lieberman is one of those attending the convention who will be making the case for giving the fish a break so stocks can recover.

"The Atlantic bluefin tuna is a species that has declined so much that, on average, it's 85 percent gone. Less than 15 percent remains of what was once there."

The United States announced its support of the trade ban last week. Such a ban would mean U.S. fishermen could still catch some bluefin, but would only be able to sell it to U.S. customers. The European Union also supports the ban; Japan does not. Lieberman says Japanese companies have been stockpiling bluefin in warehouse freezers because of the threat of a ban and because the species is declining.

If the ban is approved, it doesn't mean bluefin will disappear from Connecticut sushi menus. In fact, and Lieberman encourages fans of the delicacy to keep ordering it.

"That doesn't mean that if you've eaten sushi, you're bad. Most of the sushi is going to Japan. The big problem is overfishing and illegal fishing, particularly in the Mediterranean."

Several species of shark also are being considered for an international trade ban because scientists say they've been overfished to supply shark fin soup.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species is meeting through March 25 in Doha, Qatar.

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT