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Quota filled, bluefin tuna hunt ends early

The European Commission (EC) has announced an early end to the Atlantic bluefin tuna season since the quota of 13,500 tons has been met. The fishing will end at 11:59 tonight GMT.

“The closure of the purse seine fishery is necessary to protect the fragile stock of bluefin tuna and to ensure its recovery, as envisaged by the recovery plan of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT),” the EC said in a statement. “The Commission has declared a zero tolerance approach towards overfishing and will take all necessary measures to ensure full compliance across the board.”

However, environmentalists—long critical of ICCAT’s management of the Atlantic bluefin tuna—argue that scientific data proves the Atlantic bluefin tuna is already dramatically overfished, possibly leading the massive fish species to extinction.

“What has surprised me,” writes a Greenpeace activist in response to the announcement in a blog, “is the speed with which the quotas were filled.”

The Atlantic bluefin tuna fishing season has already been pared down to a single month, but bad weather had largely prevented fishing for the first two weeks this year. Still the fishing season is ending a week early, which implies that most of the quota was filled in approximately one week.

“This shows just how good they are at catching the fish in a short space of time, and just how powerful the bluefin tuna catching machine is when it gets going. Little wonder that this method has to be so strongly restricted, and little wonder it has wrought such damage,” the Greenpeace blogger continues.

The Atlantic bluefin tuna, listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List, has become a flashpoint between conservationists and the fishing industry. Fetching incredibly high prices in the Japanese sushi market, the species’ population has dropped by 80 percent since 1970.

Environmentalists have long been calling for a total ban of Atlantic bluefin tuna fishing, yet just such a ban failed this year at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) after heavy lobbying from Japan. A report by WWF has warned that if fishing continues the species will be functionally extinct by 2012.

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