MARRAKECH, Morocco — Countries fishing the eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean agreed Tuesday to expand the annual quota for prized bluefin tuna to reflect an improvement in their stocks. Environmentalists insisted the increase was excessive.
The 50-nation International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas agreed to increase the quota from 24,000 tons this year to 28,000 next year, with a further 4,000 tons added in each of the following two years.
The decision means the quota has more than doubled from five years ago, when once depleted stocks of bluefin tuna first started showing the potential of a recovery.
Environmentalists were disappointed, since they maintain that the fish’s recovery is still far too fragile to permit such increases in quotas.
‘‘This year was an enormous step backward for sustainable tuna fisheries,’’ said Paulus Tak of the Pew Charitable Trusts. ‘‘The status of the stocks was ignored. Instead, states decided to catch more fish, faster than ever.’’
Environmentalists had called for a slight increase in catch quotas at best. Some environmental groups think the commission’s scientific findings are overly optimistic.
But influential partners like the 28-nation European Union and Japan believe the scientific advice has underpinned a rise in the annual catch quota to 36,000 tons by 2020.