The EU had wanted a ban on the trade of bluefin tuna from 2011 because stocks are at dangerously low levels.
But the EU and other countries supporting a ban failed to get the necessary majority of two-thirds of countries which have signed up to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to add tuna to a list of banned species.
Janez Potočnik, the European commissioner for environment, and Maria Damanaki, the European commissioner for fisheries, said in a statement: “We are disappointed with the outcome of the CITES meeting as regards the EU proposal for a listing in Appendix I of bluefin tuna.” Species listed under CITES appendix I cannot be traded.
The commissioners added: “If action is not taken, there is a very serious danger that the bluefin tuna will no longer exist.”
Stocks of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean have fallen by 85% since the 1950s.
Japan and Canada were among the countries that opposed the ban at the meeting in Doha.