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Published - 10/03/2010

The Marine Conservation Society reports that the future of one of the most majestic species to make its home in European waters - bluefin tuna - could be decided within days, along with two other highly endangered fish, the spiny dogfish and porbeagle.

The northern Atlantic bluefin tuna, Thunnus thynnus, has been fished for centuries in the waters around Europe, and the effects have taken their toll on populations of this magnificent fish. Northern bluefin, which can reach over three metres in length, is now classed as endangered in the Eastern Atlantic by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the same rating that is given to the orang-utan and the tiger.

Members of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) meet on the 13th March, to discuss which species should be added to their appendices. The Marine Conservation Society, along with several EU countries, including the UK, is backing a proposal from Monaco to add the bluefin tuna to CITES Appendix I, effectively banning all international trade.

There could, however, be some resistance to the listing. The market for beleaguered bluefin remains very strong in Japan for instance. It's used in sushi and sashimi, for which it is prized for its quality. The trade has driven the species to the brink of extinction, resulting in prices so high that one fish recently sold for around £111,000 at market. France, who has a big tuna fishery industry, may also be less than happy with a ban.

Sam Wilding, MCS Fisheries Officer, says the bluefin tuna is listed as a Fish to Avoid on MCS' recommendation lists due to the dramatic decline in stocks over recent years, and the ineffectiveness of the management of this fishery.

" Also on the MCS Fish to Avoid list are the Porbeagle Shark (Lamna nasus) and the Spiny Dogfish (Squalus acanthias). These species have also been proposed by Germany, for a listing on CITES Appendix II, which will help control trade of these species. Both of these species are characterised by slow growth, late maturity and high longevity - characteristics that make them highly vulnerable to fishing pressure."

Many shark species are targeted for their fins and meat. But many people don't realise they are also exploited for products beyond our plates including cosmetics, animal feed and dietary supplements. When these species become overfished, it can take decades for stocks to recover, if indeed they recover at all.

Sam Wilding of MCS says this is an opportunity for the world to take a stand and stop the overfishing of these endangered species. "These opportunities do not come around that often, and it is time for the majority to stand up to the minority that gain so much economic benefit from driving species towards the brink of extinction. MCS urges consumers to help, by avoiding all fish on our red list and to ask where your tuna comes from to ensure it's sustainable. "

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