RED tuna is now on the brink of extinction, scientists have warned.
Population levels are now classed as critically low after numbers plummeted to just 15 per cent their former levels.
The growing popularity of delicacies sushi and sashimi not only in Japan, but also in the United States and Europe has been blamed for the grave situation.
Now, more than 150 countries will gather on March 25 to debate the future of the endangered fish at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Europe and the United States are calling for redfin tuna – heavily fished in the Mediterranean – to be placed on the list of species threatened by extinction.
Such a move would effectively prohibit catching the species for purely commercial gain by 2011.
Yet, this severe move is heavily opposed by Japan, which is hoping to garner enough support from a third of countries present in order to block the measure.
“Governments must safeguard the future of redfin tuna, otherwise a species of huge historical importance will be lost forever,” said Sergi Tudela, from WWF.
Although international fishing quotas have been drastically reduced in recent years to protect the ailing species, critics say they are still insufficient.
They point to the still widespread illegal fishing practices and overexploitation that are still commonplace.
Redfin tuna catches were twice the levels legally permitted in 2007 and four times higher than the quantity recommended by experts.