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Bluefin Tuna, Sea Bass Among Fish Facing Mediterranean Extinction Threat

Bluefin tuna, sea bass and hake are threatened with regional extinction in the Mediterranean Sea because of overfishing and pollution, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature said.

More than 40 species of marine fish face dying out in the sea between Europe and North Africa, including almost half of all rays and sharks, the Gland, Switzerland-based union said today. The IUCN compiles a Red List of Threatened Species.

“The Mediterranean and Eastern Atlantic population of the Atlantic bluefin tuna is of particular concern,” IUCN Global Marine Species Assessment Coordinator Kent Carpenter said in an e-mailed statement. “There has been an estimated 50 percent decline in this species’ reproduction potential over the past 40 years due to intensive overfishing.”

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna, or ICCAT, in November set the total allowable catch at 12,900 metric tons of bluefin tuna, a move criticized by environmental groups including Oceana and Greenpeace, which have campaigned for a closure of the fishery to allow depleted populations to replenish.

Catches of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic peaked at more than 50,000 tons in 1996, according to the ICCAT website. In the western Atlantic, the commission is trying to rebuild stocks and set a limit of 1,750 tons for this year.

Bluefin tuna was classed as endangered in the Mediterranean, the second-highest degree of threat. Hake, a fish popular with diners in Spain, is in the cod and haddock families and was classified as vulnerable. The European plaice, a flatfish, as well as European sea bass and Baltic flounder are all near-threatened, according to the union.

The shortfin mako, porbeagle and sand tiger sharks were all classed as critically endangered within the Mediterranean, the highest degree of threat, while the great white is considered regionally endangered.

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