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By Pita Ligaiula in Waikiki, Hawaii
Japan will oppose attempts by the United States to increase its quota on for bigeye tuna at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) currently underway in Honolulu.
The moves follow Pacific nations concerns of a US proposal to increase the catch limit for its Hawaii-based longline fleet.
“We don’t like it,” Head of Delegation for Japan Shingo Ota told journalists covering the meeting.
“Their proposal is if a country has better observer coverage and does not conduct transshipment they can receive more allocation,” he said.
Due to the way the proposal is structured the United States would be the only country eligible to benefit. The US is seeking big increases in its catch limit as recognition of its much better than average rate of observer coverage.
Ota said Japan did not like the US proposal because there are many other factors to be taken into account.
“I think the US is picking up only limited factors which are in favour of their operations. So, I think it is unfair,” Ota said.
Japan provides detailed data “which is a fundamental basis of stock assessment so this scientific contribution should be appreciated,” Ota explained.
Despite the cool reception its proposal has received, the United States has leverage because decisions by the commission are generally made by consensus and crucial measures important to the Pacific are due to expire before the end of this year.
“We are currently discussing how to deal with those one-year-only measures.” Ota said.
Pacific nations have said they do not want to see a weakening of the tropical tuna measure which governs bigeye quotas, nor do they want to disturb its delicate balance by failing to extend existing provisions.
“Some people want to weaken the measure,” Ota acknowledged.
“We are not in a position to support that,” he said.
Japan also refuted data provided in the U.S proposal that suggested observer coverage on the Japanese fleet has gone down in the past year.
“Actually, the U.S figures is not correct and we are actually implementing 5% coverage. In some of the fleets a little bit less than 5% but some of the fleets are more than 5%.
I think their figures are misleading," said Ota.
Ota said Japan acknowledged the 5% coverage on longliners is low but said longliers face particular problems.
“We are working on this issue with our industry people but fundamentally longliners have …very difficult living conditions and the duration of the voyage is sometimes several months, so very difficult for observers to stay, he explained.
“We had some unfortunate incidents in the past. Sometimes observers get depressed and they really want to go back to port and the fishing vessel had to quit fishing operations so we are working on this. Electronic monitoring would be one of the solutions, he said
Turning to relations with Pacific countries, Ota said many of Japan’s fishing vessels are dependent on the EEZs of the Pacific Island countries so the reality is Japan cannot ignore FFA member countries.
“My belief is we need to find common ground with FFA member countries. So sometimes we are complementary and sometimes our position is completely different from FFA. What we are trying to do is we need to have at least direct communications so we frequently visit Honiara or the other places to have direct communication and sometime we invite them to Japan. If we don’t have direct communication it would be much more difficult for us to understand the interest and concern of the Pacific Island countries.
“We are actually catching about 400,000 tonnes of tuna or tuna-like species in the world and about 80 or 90 per cent of the catch is coming from the Western Pacific Ocean so this area and this organisation is far more important than tuna organisations,” he said.
Pacific Islands News Association
Who & What is PINA?
International News Safety Institute (INSI)
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