Pacific bluefin tuna, American eel listed as endangered species

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has added Pacific bluefin tuna and American eel to its new list of species at risk of extinction.

The Switzerland-based organization, known as the IUCN, said Monday those species are at risk mainly because of overfishing for the Japanese market. Japan is the world’s biggest consumer of tuna, which is a popular ingredient in sushi, and eel is also popular among Japanese consumers.

“Each update of the IUCN red list makes us realize that our planet is constantly losing its incredible diversity of life, largely due to our destructive actions to satisfy our growing appetite for resources,” IUCN Director-General Julia Marton-Lefevre said.

“But we have scientific evidence that protected areas can play a central role in reversing this trend,” she added.

Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, known as the Washington Convention, are scheduled to hold a conference in South Africa in 2016.

The IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species, while in itself is not legally binding, serves as a key reference for parties to the Washington Convention when designating threatened species for international trade restrictions.

The IUCN, which had earlier said it was not concerned about the Pacific bluefin tuna going extinct, now says the species is “vulnerable” — the lowest of the three stages for species at risk of extinction.

The organization says the species’ population is estimated to have declined by between 19 per cent and 33 per cent over the past 22 years to meet demand for sushi and sashimi, primarily in Asia.

The international body designated American eel as “endangered,” the second worst of the three stages. The decrease in Japanese eel has created greater demand for American eel, leading to reports of poaching of the American eel in the US, it said.

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