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Int’l Committee Considers Trade Ban on AZ Sushi Delicacy

March 17, 2010

PHOENIX - Atlantic bluefin tuna has a reputation in Arizona sushi bars as delicious and expensive – and 'endangered' may soon be added to the list of descriptors. 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.

Sue Lieberman, director of international policy at Pew Environment Group, is at the meeting in Qatar. She is among those 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. It would mean U.S. fishermen could still catch some bluefin, but would only be able to sell them to U.S.-based customers. The European Union also supports the ban, although 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 sushi menus - 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's going to Japan. The big problem is overfishing and illegal fishing, particularly in the Mediterranean."

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

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ