An international organization is contemplating an export ban on Atlantic bluefin tuna that Prince Edward Island fishermen say would have a disastrous impact on their livelihood.

Representatives from 175 countries that belong to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species will begin meetings on Saturday in Doha, Qatar, that could lead to a ban on exporting Atlantic bluefin tuna.

Prince Edward Island has 286 licensed tuna fishermen. The fishermen, who believe the ban would have a disastrous effect on the bluefin fishery in Atlantic Canada, catch an estimated 138 tonnes of tuna a year.

P.E.I. fishermen count on the bluefin tuna catch for an estimated $5 million in annual revenue. Each fish can sell for thousands of dollars.

Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea told Island fishermen in February that Canada opposes the tuna ban.

"If Canada ends in a situation where bluefin tuna is listed we will probably have more to lose than most other countries because we export almost all of our tuna," Shea said.

Shea said Canada has strict quotas on bluefin tuna, for example, fishermen are only allowed to catch one tuna a day and only with a rod and reel.

Canada exports most of the tuna caught by its fishermen, while other fishing nations consume most of what they take in.

Island fisherman have argued that other countries, particularly in the Mediterranean, will likely continue fishing large quantities of tuna and a ban will not improve fish stocks.

Some European countries and the United States support the idea of a ban because they argue the fish is endangered.

The United Nations panel that oversees the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species announced on Feb. 5 that it believed the export of Atlantic bluefin tuna should be banned because of a drop of more than 80 per cent in stocks since the 19th century.

The tuna, which is popular in sushi restaurants, can reach three metres long and weigh more than 650 kilograms.