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Arab countries join Japan in fight against bluefin tuna ban

Several Arab countries joined Japan in opposition to ban export of Atlantic bluefin tuna.

By Michael CaseyAP / March 17, 2010

Several Arab countries on Wednesday signaled support of Japan's opposition to an Atlantic bluefin tuna ban. In this photo, a wholesaler carries a frozen tuna between tuna laid out in rows at Tsukiji fish market, Japan's largest fish auction house, in Tokyo.

Issei Kato/Reuters

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Doha, Qatar

Opposition grew Wednesday against a proposal to ban the export of Atlantic bluefin tuna, with several Arab countries joining Japan in arguing it would hurt poor fishing nations and wasn't scientifically justified.

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Other countries including Australia and Peru have expressed support for a weakened proposal which is expected to be introduced Thursday at the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES.

They want the trade regulated for the first time by CITES but not banned outright as demanded by conservationists who contend the Atlantic bluefin is on the brink of extinction.

Killing or even weakening the tuna proposal would be a setback for CITES, which has made the protection of marine species a key goal during this two-week meeting. A proposal for a shark conservation plan was also defeated on Tuesday.

Many poor countries appeared to be leaning toward protecting their economies over conserving the iconic tuna.

"Most Mediterranean countries are afraid because they export this tuna," said Ahmed Said Shukaili, a delegate from the Persian Gulf country of Oman, whose nation will follow the Arab League position opposing the ban.

"They see this as an economic issue," he said. "There is a lot of concerns for the fishermen who depend on this fish."

Japan says it has the support of China while several other countries were undecided. China has not said publicly where it stands.

Monaco — the sponsor of the proposed ban on the export of Atlantic bluefin tuna — says numbers have fallen by nearly 75 percent since 1957. But most of the decline has occurred over the last decade with demand driven by sushi lovers in Japan and elsewhere for the bluefin's succulent red and pink meat.

Supporters of the ban, including the European Union and the United States, say it is necessary because the Atlantic bluefin is a migratory species that swims from the western Atlantic to the Mediterranean — putting it beyond any one country's border.