The Pacific bluefin tuna could be driven to extinction because it is highly in demand among sushi lovers. The population of the fish widely used in sushi and sashimi dishes could be wiped out due to unsustainable demands from global food market places, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) warns.

In its latest update to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species released at the IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney on Nov. 17, the conservation body moved the Pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis) from being categorized among species with least concern to vulnerable as it is being threatened with the possibility of extinction. The fishing industry is targeting it for high demands from the sashimi and sushi markets, particularly in Asia.

Japan is primarily blamed for the demise of the bluefin as the country imports over 80 percent of the raw fish for its traditional dishes. Known as "hon-maguro" among the Japanese, the Bluefin variety fetches high price. In 2013, a Pacific bluefin tuna weighing 200 kilograms was priced at $1.76 million.

The IUCN said that this species of fish is commonly caught young, which means that they are deprived of the oppportunity to reproduce. This raises concern as the population of this marine species is estimated to have dropped by up to 33 percent over the last two decades.

"Unless fisheries implement the conservation and management measures developed for the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, including a reduction in the catches of juvenile fish, we cannot expect its status to improve in the short term," said IUCN Species Survival Commission Tuna and Billfish Specialist Group chair Bruce Collette.

The IUCN said that existing marine protected areas do not offer enough protection for the marine animal. The conservation body suggested expanding these protected areas to within 200 miles of the coast as well as integrating breeding area to help with the conservation of the species.

The Chinese pufferfish, one of the most poisonous vertebrates in the world, which incidentally is also a delicacy in Japan, and the Chinese cobra, which is among the leading animals that are exported from China's mainland for food, are also included in the IUCN's red list. As in the case of the Pacific bluefin tuna, these species are being threatened due to demands from the food market, which lead to overfishing.

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