The trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna will continue unchecked after the rejection of a proposed fishing ban that had been described by conservationists as the only way to save the critically endangered species from extinction. Japan and Canada along with scores of developing nations succeeded in preventing any restrictions being imposed on the harvest of the fish, which is highly prized in sushi restaurants, on the grounds that a ban would devastate the world's fishing economies. Delegates at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) in Doha voted by a margin of 68 to 20 against a proposal to immediately outlaw the sale of bluefin. A weaker measure supported by the EU, which would have introduced a ban in 2011, was also rejected by 72 votes to 43. The decision puts one of the world's most majestic fish in imminent danger of extinction. Stocks of bluefin, the largest and fastest of all tuna species, have declined to roughly 15 per cent of historic levels. Migrating shoals of the fish, which grow to up to three metres in length and have been likened to underwater Ferraris, are plundered each year as they pass through the Straits of Gibraltar to spawn in the Mediterranean. Their fatty flesh is much in demand in Japan, where good specimens can fetch tens of thousands of dollars. A 500lb bluefin was auctioned for �111,000 on the Tokyo fish market two months ago, making it the most valuable fish ever sold. The prices being paid for bluefin have added to the difficulties in controlling the trade. France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Malta and Cyprus have for years blocked EU proposals to outlaw fishing in their territorial waters, while the Japanese have pledged to ignore any Cites ban that is imposed. "It is scandalous that governments did not even get the chance to engage in meaningful debate about the international trade ban proposal," said Dr Sergi Tudela, a WWF fisheries scientist who was at the talks. "It is now more important than ever for people to do what the politicians failed to do � stop consuming bluefin tuna."