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Scientists Brought Into Tuna Dispute

International scientists will play a key role in resolving the issues in the dispute between New Zealand and Japan over Japanese fishing for southern bluefin tuna, Fisheries Minister Pete Hodgson confirmed today.

Following the direction of an international tribunal in August, New Zealand has been working with Japan and Australia to settle the dispute arising from Japan’s "experimental" fishing for the valuable tuna species.

"The signs of progress towards resolving this dispute are good," said Mr Hodgson.

As part of a package of developments, the three parties have agreed to jointly undertake a scientifically based research programme, to be designed by a panel of eminent international scientists.

"Japan has given us its commitment that it will not carry out unilateral experimental fishing in the future," Mr Hodgson said. "That commitment is very significant, as it was Japan’s unilateral experimental fishing that led us to ban Japanese SBT vessels from our ports in 1998 and take legal proceedings against Japan.

"Japan’s commitment has enabled us to lift the port bans and leaves the way clear for a truly cooperative approach to the management of this depleted species."

Mr Hodgson said the key development was Japan’s agreement to bring in international scientists to design the research programme. "This ensures that the programme will genuinely reduce the uncertainties in our understanding of the stock, which is critical to improving our ability to manage it effectively."

Other signs of progress include success in convincing Korea to join the management regime. That leaves only Taiwan and Indonesia outside the regime and negotiations with these countries are continuing.

"Bringing everyone who fishes for southern bluefin into the management regime is critical for ensuring the long term future of the stock," said Mr Hodgson.


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