Page last updated at 11:24 GMT, Friday, 1 August 2008 12:24 UK

Tuna fishing suspended in Japan

Wholesalers check the quality of frozen tuna at Tsukiji Fish Market on 17 July, 2008 in Tokyo, Japan.
The suspension is expected to cut Japan's tuna catch by 5%

Tuna fishermen from Japan's largest fisheries co-operative have suspended operations temporarily in a bid to replenish dwindling stocks of the fish.

About 230 Japanese vessels will stop fishing for periods totalling more than two months over the next two years.

Tuna stocks globally have fallen dramatically in recent years as more people opt to eat sushi and sashimi in an effort to be more healthy.

The suspension is expected to cut Japan's catch of tuna by 5%.

"The main reason for our suspension is sluggish fishing offshore," the co-operative said in its website.

The suspension will mean that almost two-thirds of Japan's longline tuna vessels will stay ashore for short periods at a time over the next two years.

The BBC's Chris Hogg in Tokyo says that in itself will not be enough to restore stock levels, but Japan says co-ordinating the action with similar bodies in China, South Korea and Taiwan will maximise its impact.

Japan has by far the largest tuna fleet in the world and the Japanese are the world's biggest consumers of fish.

Our correspondent says global demand for Japanese seafood delicacies like sushi and sashimi is also growing, leaving environmentalists deeply concerned.

Activists say even greater restrictions on fishing are needed and consumers should be given more information about the problem of sustainability.

Otherwise, they say, the species will not survive.

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