NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - Stocks of bluefin tuna, among the most coveted sports and food fish in the sea, are in decline and a moratorium on catching the sleek fish could be on the horizon.
This month, an American delegation to the International Commission for the Conservation of Tunas will request a three- to five-year moratorium on bluefin tuna fishing in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean.
"The U.S. is really trying to make a stand for a species that's really at risk," said Monica Allen, a spokeswoman with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The overwhelming majority of Atlantic bluefin tuna is caught in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean, with a smaller percentage fished in the western Atlantic.
The bluefin has been part of the Mediterranean diet for centuries and the dark red meat now produces some of the world's most expensive fish dishes.
Once, bluefin tuna were so plentiful off the Outer Banks that fishermen needed only to throw out a few bait fish to attract swarms of tuna.
"You could hand-feed them," said Steve Richardson, a Virginia Beach charter captain whose boat, the Backlash, hails from Hatteras. "It was like puppy dogs, throwing them a bone. I wish it was like that today."