The UN body overseeing commerce in endangered wildlife on Thursday rejected a proposal to outlaw international trade in eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna, a sushi mainstay in Japan.

The controversial proposal made by Monaco was quashed with 68 votes against, 20 in favor and 30 abstentions at a meeting in Doha of the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Japan, which buys three-quarters of the global catch of bluefin tuna, has lobbied hard in Doha and elsewhere to block the proposal, which had to be approved by two-thirds of the approximately 150 nations in attendance.

Japan, Canada and many poorer nations feared a ban would devastate fishing economies

Bluefin tuna stocks in the Atlantic and Mediterranean have crashed, with populations declining by up to 80 percent from only three or four decades ago.