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Time running out for bluefin tuna

OVERFISHING will wipe out the breeding population of Atlantic bluefin tuna, one of the ocean's largest and fastest predators, in three years unless catches are dramatically reduced, conservation group WWF said yesterday.

As European fishing fleets prepared to begin the two-month Mediterranean fishing season today, WWF said its analysis showed the bluefin tuna that spawn - those aged four years and older - will have disappeared by 2012 at current rates.

"For years people have been asking when the collapse of this fishery will happen, and now we have the answer," said spokesman Sergi Tudela.

The fish, which can weigh over half a tonne and accelerate faster than a sports car, is a favorite for sushi lovers. Demand for tuna has triggered an explosion in the size of the Mediterranean fleet over the past decade and many of those boats use illegal spotter planes to track the fish.

"Mediterranean (Atlantic) bluefin tuna is collapsing as we speak and yet the fishery will kick off again tomorrow for business as usual. It is absurd and inexcusable to open a fishing season when stocks of the target species are collapsing," Tudela added.

Environmental groups condemned an agreement signed last November by states setting bluefin quotas - a body dominated by EU members. The groups called it "a disaster" and "a disgrace," saying the states had ignored their own scientists.


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