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Conservationists claim victory for science over tuna quotas

The body that decides how many tuna can be caught in the Atlantic and Mediterranean has followed the advice of scientists, in what conservationists are claiming as an important victory.

To keep pace with the ever growing demand for tuna, quotas for the valuable fish have been repeatedly raised in the past, leading to fears over the future of many populations. But with recent tougher management there have been some indications that populations of bluefin tuna in the Atlantic are rebounding, leading non-governmental organizations to voice fears that quotas might be rapidly raised again before the fish have properly recovered.

But at the end of its annual meeting in Morocco today, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) agreed to follow the advice of its scientists, with only a small increase in the tuna quota for 2013.

“We encourage policy-makers to continue to listen to science in the future. Only then will the East Atlantic and Mediterranean stock of Atlantic bluefin tuna have a chance to fully recover,” said Sergi Tudela, head of fisheries for the Mediterranean branch of the conservation group the WWF, in a statement.

The sushi staple is not out of the woods yet though.

“While there was progress toward putting in place an electronic system to track bluefin tuna, it is disappointing that ICCAT only made limited progress in overall efforts to stop illegal fishing,” said Susan Lieberman, director of international policy at the Pew Environment Group, in a statement.

Environmental groups also criticized the ICCAT for not moving faster to protect shark species under its jurisdiction.

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