The United Nations (U.N.) has reportedly balked at a proposal to ban the international trade of Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna, an endangered species prized by sushi aficionados. Gathered in Doha, Qatar, for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), U.N. member states voted 20-68 to reject the measure, which was supported by environmentalists but opposed by the Japanese and Canadian governments. The latter had apparently argued that regulation of the bluefin trade should fall under the jurisdiction of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (Iccat). In addition, the European nations with bluefin fishing fleets for the most part abstained from voting.

Meanwhile, the United Nations and other environmental regulators have expressed disappointment with the result and questioned Iccat’s ability to effectively manage the vulnerable fisheries. EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik and Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki have since called on Iccat to “take its responsibility to ensure that stocks are managed in a sustainable way,” warning that without prompt action, “there is a very serious danger that the bluefin tuna will no longer exist.” See CITES Press Release and The New York Times, March 18, 2010.