Conservationists are urging the federal government not to ask for a greater quota of western Atlantic bluefin tuna at an international meeting in South Africa.

Susanna Fuller of the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax said Canada would set a dangerous precedent if it asks members of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas to allow fishermen to catch more of the lucrative, but vulnerable fish.

Fuller said the fisheries department delegates should at least hold the annual quota at 1,750 tonnes.

A department spokesman refused to comment on the discussions or say what Canada will propose at the meetings, which start Monday in Cape Town.

Fuller said it would be hypocritical for Fisheries and Oceans Canada to ask for a higher quota while the same department is undertaking a review of the species to determine if it should be listed as endangered.

Scientists said there is little clear science on the health of the stock and that countries should hold off raising the quota until more is known about the abundance of the immense fish, which are highly sought for sushi.