Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea is applauding Thursday's United Nations wildlife meeting vote rejecting a U.S.-backed proposal to ban bluefin tuna exports.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species made the right decision, said Shea. She added that responsible management practices of Canada's bluefin fishery helped swing the vote.

Japan and scores of developing nations opposed the ban, which was proposed Feb. 5 by the panel that oversees the convention. It believed the export of Atlantic bluefin tuna — popular in sushi restaurants — has resulted in a drop of more than 80 per cent in stocks since the 19th century.

"We're very encouraged by the preliminary results because Canada's position all along has been that that this species should be managed through a regional fish management program, which we have in ICCAT [International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas]," said Shea. "The challenge will be to strengthen ICCAT to ensure that conservation measures are adhered to."

Canada's management plan is one of the best in the world, said Shea.

Relief in P.E.I.

There are about 300 bluefin tuna fishermen on P.E.I.

"We're ecstatic here. We never thought there should have been a ban and the way we fish our tuna here and our conservation measures and the way the fishermen themselves look after the stock, there really was no indication that there should be a ban whatsoever," said Neil LeClair, P.E.I.'s fisheries minister on Thursday. "We were pretty confident the ban would be turned down, but, at the same time, it was an issue."

Ed Frenette, executive director of the P.E.I. Fisherman's Association said, "Certainly that's a positive step for P.E.I. tuna fishermen and the future of our tuna industry here. It looks like we'll be able to go fishing again this coming year and years after."

While Frenette is pleased with the decision, he cautions there could be lobbying in the next week at the international meeting that might lead to a second vote on March 25.