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Tuna case has brought progress

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Speech Notes
8 August 2000

Tuna case has brought progress


Foreign Minister Phil Goff said today that the spotlight placed on Japan by New Zealand's recourse to the International Arbitral Tribunal has brought about a more responsible approach on their part to the dispute between our countries over Southern Bluefin Tuna.

Mr Goff was responding to news that the tribunal has found that it does not have the jurisdiction to hear New Zealand and Australia's case against Japan over its experimental fishing for Southern Bluefin Tuna.

"While we had hoped that the Tribunal would feel able to resolve the issue, the challenge now for New Zealand, Japan and Australia is to move from litigation to negotiation and to long term collaboration.

"By bringing this case we have caused a greater readiness on Japan's part to improve the scientific basis of any future joint experimental fishing programme and to reduce the tonnage that would be taken if such a programme were to be agreed.

"It has also led them to greater acquiescence of the involvement of independent scientists in the work of the SBT Commission in managing this stock.

"Japan has cooperated with Australia and New Zealand in the development of a trade information scheme as a means of help tighten controls over the catch of SBT by non-members of the Commission.

"The Tribunal has appealed to the three parties to enter into negotiation to resolve the dispute. We welcome its comment that parties should abstain from unilateral action that may aggravate the dispute.

"The pressure now falls on Japan, Australia and New Zealand to negotiate a resolution so we can get on with the business of developing a proper conservation and management of this important species. We also look forward to bringing other fishing countries, Korea, Indonesia and Taiwan into the programme.

"The future of this depleted stock is ultimately dependent on the cooperation of all the countries involved", Mr Goff concluded.

ENDS

Contact: Paul Goldsmith 04 471 9794 025 477 982


Background Information


New Zealand has an annual quota of 420 tonnes of SBT, which is worth $11 million in export earnings.

The Arbitral Tribunal has five members, including The Rt. Hon Sir Kenneth Keith, KBE, of New Zealand's Court of Appeal who has a distinguished background in international law. The Tribunal is chaired by former president of the International Court of Justice, Judge Stephen Schwebel. Other members are Judge Feliciano (Philippines), Judge Tresselt (Norway) and Professor Yamada (Japan).

The Tribunal is an ad hoc body convened only to hear this particulardispute. It was constituted under Annex VII of the Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS).

The earlier interim judgment (or "provisional measures") in favour of New Zealand and Australia was handed down by the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea, which sits in Hamburg. Its decision was delivered on 27 August 1999. The measures required all three parties to restrict their catch to the last levels agreed by the SBT Commission and prohibited any experimental fishing above those levels without the agreement of all parties.

The effect of this weekend's decision is to lift the earlier interim judgement.

The Convention for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna has three parties -- Australia, Japan and New Zealand -- and entered into force in 1994. It established a Commission in which the parties meet to manage the stock.

Other countries and entities which fish for SBT include Korea, Indonesia,
South Africa and Taiwan.

ENDS

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