A proposal to ban the export of Atlantic bluefin tuna has been rejected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.  That comes as a relief to the tuna fishing industry on P.E.I.

At the meeting, which is taking place in Doha, Qatar, the country of Monaco introduced the proposal, arguing a ban was necessary because of a dramatic decline in stocks. But only the United States, Norway and Kenya supported an outright ban.

The proposal was defeated on the grounds that it would devastate fishing economies. Canada was one of the countries making that argument.

There are about 300 licensed 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. "We were pretty confident the ban would be turned down, but, at the same time, it was an issue."

The majority of the delegates voted against the ban, said Ed Frenette, executive director of the P.E.I. Fisherman's Association.  

"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 today's decision, he cautions there could be a lot of lobbying in the next week at the international meeting that might lead to a second vote on March 25.

The United Nations panel that oversees the convention 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.