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Japan's Proposals For Fisheries Meeting Rejected


MEDIA RELEASE
April 20, 2001.

JAPAN'S PROPOSALS FOR FISHERIES MEETING
IN CHRISTCHURCH REJECTED

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Government of Japan, said today it will not attend the Preparatory Conference for the Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, to be held in Christchurch next week.

Mr Masayuki Komatsu, a Counsellor at the Government of Japan’s Fisheries Agency said: “Japan is concerned that the Convention as adopted last year does not adequately provide for the conservation of these stocks in the region. But, unfortunately, New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific Island States have rejected our proposals to have discussions on how to improve the Convention and to allow participation of all States with a real interest in the fisheries of the area – that is why we will not attend the Conference.”

Japan and Korea voted against the Convention, and China, France and Tonga abstained at its adoption at the seventh session of a Multilateral High Level Conference held last September.

“Japan is a world leader in responsible fisheries but under these circumstances, we cannot participate in the Preparatory Conference. We are concerned that the Convention as adopted is unlikely to achieve its goal of ensuring the long-term conservation and optimum use of these resources for present and future generations so we are committed to continuing our efforts to seek improvements,” he said.

Mr Komatsu explained that the Convention, which was finalized last year but has yet to enter into force, has a number serious flaws that will prevent its effective implementation. These include the fact that it excludes a number of States with a real interest in the fisheries of the area, that the boundaries of the Convention Area are not defined, that there is overlapping jurisdiction in area and species with other already existing fisheries agreements, that the procedures established by the Convention will not provide timely conservation decisions and that the Convention does not adequately take account of the different biological, socio-economic and cultural nature of fisheries in the area north of 20º north.

Mr Komatsu explained that because of these flaws, many possible members, particularly fishing States, will unlikely adhere to the Convention. “It is obvious that a Convention without the major fishing States simply won’t be effective,” he said.

The meeting in Christchurch from 23-28 April is aimed at establishing draft regulations to implement the Convention. “We regret that Japan’s proposals to discuss improvement to the Convention and to include those with a real interest have been rejected,” said Mr Komatsu.

For more information contact:
Kaoru Kurosawa,
International Affairs Division,
Fisheries Agency of Japan
TEL: 81-3-3591-1086 FAX: 81-3-3502-0571


April 20, 2001

Responsible Conservation and Management for Tuna
Resources in the Central and Western Pacific

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Government of Japan

1. Introduction

Japan, a maritime state surrounded by the sea, has depended on marine living resources for its animal protein since ancient times. For this reason, we are confident that we do not fall behind any other country in recognizing the importance of conserving and utilizing marine resources effectively and sustainably.

Japan believes that scientifically-based conservation and sustainable utilization of living resources from the oceans, which occupy 70% of the earth's surface, is essential in order to achieve worldwide food security and safety. Japan is committed to cooperate with other maritime nations, especially developing nations, which pursue realization of protection of the marine environment, prevention of marine pollution and conservation and sustainable utilization of marine living resources, through its fishery resource development techniques, scientific research, distribution and processing techniques and market development know-how.

To date, Japan, as a major fishing nation, has made significant contribution to marine habit protection, pollution prevention and to the establishment and administration of a number of regional fisheries organizations (such as NAFO, CCAMLR, NPAFC, IATTC, IOTC, and CCSBT). On a global level, Japan has played a leading role, at such fora as FAO, in the development and adoption of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, the Kyoto Declaration on Sustainable Contribution of Fisheries to Food Security, the FAO Compliance Agreement, the FAO International Plans of Actions for the Management of fishing capacity, as well as sea birds and sharks and the International Plan of Action against illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing activities.

In this way, Japan has made a significant and continuing contribution to conservation of fisheries resources, protection of the marine environment and sustainable fisheries for food security not only on a national level but also on regional and global levels. Japan is committed to continue its effort in this area not only through bilateral consultations but also through regional fisheries organizations and FAO, etc. With respect to the central and western Pacific as well, Japan will not spare effort for the attainment of these objectives and goals; conservation of resources, protection of the marine environment, and sustainable fisheries for food security.


2. Background and Issues

The central and western Pacific is the world's largest fishing ground for tuna and skipjack, and is an indispensable fishing ground for not only Pacific Island nations but also Japanese fisheries. As this was the only area where no regional fisheries organization had been established, Japan has tried to take an active part in the negotiation for establishing the Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (MHLC Convention) from the first Multilateral High Level Conference (MHLC) in 1994 to the 7th MHLC in 2000, in view of the importance of setting up an appropriate regional organization for conservation and management of tuna and skipjack resources in the central and western Pacific. Japan gives its strong support to the efforts made by the States concerned toward establishment of a relevant long-term and effective conservation and management arrangement in the central and western Pacific for the present and future generations.

However, it is the view of Japan that the present Convention adopted at the 7th MHLC meeting last year does not constitute an appropriate basis to form the future relevant and workable regional fisheries organizations because the negotiations for the Convention did not follow due process seeking good faith negotiations, as stipulated in the relevant provisions of UNCLOS and UN Fish Stock Agreement.

In fact, many of the fishing nations(e.g. EU, Mexico and Peru) having a real interest were denied participation in the negotiating process for the development of the Convention, despite their request to be included. This goes against the spirit of cooperation among States concerned regarding conservation and management of marine living resources, as provided for under Articles 64 and 118 of the UNCLOS. It also contradicts the provisions to prohibit discriminatory treatment of participants in the development of fisheries arrangements as provided for under Article 8(3) of the UN Fish Stock Agreement. This is evident from the fact that a number of countries abstained in the voting on an ocean-related resolution adopted at the 55th Session of the U.N. General Assembly last year, which refers to the implications of the negotiations for the MHLC Convention.

In addition, the Convention contains the following major problems:

a) The Convention area includes the coastal waters of south-eastern Asian countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam. These countries as well as Russia were excluded despite the fact that the convention area reaches the coast of these countries. Since these countries were not involved in the negotiations, this obviously contradicts the spirit of cooperation among States concerned regarding conservation and management of marine living resources
b) as provided for in Articles 64 and 118 of the UNCLOS.

c) With respect to the decision-making process, which determines how and in what way the Convention will be implemented and how and in what way it will function, the Convention does not recognize the right for Contracting Parties to lodge a limited objection to any decision. This is an extremely rare case for a multilateral fisheries forum, which is an assembly of sovereign States having diverse legal, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. Even in the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, which has become a club of countries advocating an anti-whaling position, an objection clause is a part of the decision making process. Japan believes that any Convention that does not provide a basis for the assertion of the views of a minority group is undemocratic.

d) Regarding dispute settlement procedures, the Convention allows some MHLC member states to be exempted from compulsory provisional measures. This could lead to inequitable treatment of some Parties to a dispute.

For these reasons, Japan does not believe the current Convention will achieve effective management and conservation of tuna in the area.

3. Reason for Japan not participating in the Preparatory Conference in Christchurch

The Preparatory Conference proposed by NZ will be held from 23 April to 28 April. The Conference is planned according to a resolution adopted at the Honolulu meeting to discuss the preparation for the establishment of the Commission under the current text. However, in view of the necessity of improvement of the current text, Japan, on behalf of fishing nations and Latin American nations, requested many times that the following two points should be accommodated in advance so that Japan could decide to participate in the Conference.
(1) Countries or Regional Economic Organizations having a real interest should be invited as a full members, not as observers to the Conference, and
(2) An agenda providing for discussion and consideration of improvement of the current text should be formally adopted.
However, despite Japanese continued effort, these requests were totally denied. For these reasons, Japan has regrettably determined not to participate in the Conference.

4. Future Steps to be Taken

(i) Japan has attempted to seize every opportunity since September last year to present its position regarding improvement of the MHLC Convention through bilateral meetings, various international meetings, as well as on the occasion of visits to Japan by leaders from various countries, in order to build up a framework for the appropriate conservation and management of tuna and skipjack in the central and western Pacific. Japan is committed to continue these efforts.

(ii) Japan is committed to continue consultations with States concerned through appropriate international processes toward establishing an appropriate framework for management of tuna and skipjack resources in the central and western Pacific and North Pacific and to provide for Japan's participation in an appropriate regime in the near future.

(iii) Japan will take appropriate actions through educational programs for its consumers so that the bilateral fishing relations and fishery cooperation relations with South Pacific countries will not be impaired.

(iv) As a step to implement in advance, the FAO International Plan of Action to reduce excessive fishing capacity, Japan, as a responsible fishing nation, implemented a program to scrap 132 distant-water longline tuna fishing vessels, which accounted for 20% of its distant-water tuna longline fishing vessels in order to ensure long-term sustainable utilization of tuna and skipjack resources in the world. Japan wishes to call on other fishing nations operating in the South Pacific to take similar actions as appropriate.

(v) As the nation having the largest sashimi market for tuna and skipjack in the world, Japan is now promoting effective conservation and sustainable utilization of tuna and skipjack through market mechanisms through the "Organization for Promotion of Responsible Tuna Fisheries." The purpose of this organization is the elimination of "FOC" vessels undermining the sustainable use of tuna resources. Japan calls on all States concerned to participate in this organization.

(vi) Japan wishes to renew its commitment to strengthen the cooperation with those Pacific islands nations wishing to do so.

For more information contact:
Kaoru Kurosawa,
International Affairs Division,
Fishery Agency of Japan
Ph: +81-3- 3591- 1086 Fax:+81-3-3502-0571

Convention on the Conservation and Management of
Highly Migratory Fish Stocks
in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean


What is the Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean?
The Convention is an international agreement that aims to ensure, through effective management, the long-term conservation and sustainable use, in particular for human food consumption, of highly migratory fish stocks (mainly tuna) in the western and central Pacific Ocean.

What is the purpose of the April 23-28 Preparatory Conference to be held in Christchurch?
The Preparatory Conference is responsible for the preparation of most of the practical and administrative arrangements for the future Commission established under the Convention, such as the institutional arrangements for the establishment of the Commission, its rules of procedure, meetings, initial budget, location of headquarters, structure of the Secretariat, etc, so that upon entry into force of the Convention, the Commission will have before it the necessary recommendations to consider and adopt and begin its work without delay.

When does the Convention enter into force?
The Convention enters into force 30 days after it has been ratified by (a) three states situated north of the 20º parallel of north latitude; and (b) seven States situated south of the 20º parallel of north latitude. However, if within 3 years, the Convention has not been ratified by three of the States situated north of the 20º parallel of north latitude, it shall enter into force six months after ratification by 13 of those eligible to do so.

Although twelve States and territories have signed the Convention (Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Palau, Philippines, Samoa, Tuvalu, United States, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu) it has to date only been ratified by three of these States (Fiji, Marshall Islands and Samoa). The Convention is also open for signature and ratification by Australia, Canada, China, France, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Kiribati, Republic of Nauru, Niue, Republic of Korea, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and the United Kingdom. However, other states and the EU cannot join the Convention without the consensus of the members.

What is Japan's position on the Convention?
Japan, as a major fishing State in the western and central Pacific, is committed to the establishment of an effective regime for conservation of highly migratory fish stocks in order to ensure sustainable fisheries in this region. It is Japan's view however, that unfortunately, there are serious flaws with the Convention as adopted in September 2000 at the seventh session of the Multilateral High Level Conference and that, as such, it will not be an effective conservation instrument and that it will not meet its conservation and sustainable use objectives. Japan will continue its efforts to improve the Convention.

How could the Convention be improved?
One of the major problems with the Convention is its exclusivity. A number of fishing States and entities with a real interest in the fisheries of the central and south Pacific were excluded from the negotiation process and are now excluded from signing the Convention. Clearly, it is imperative to include all such parties if the Convention is to achieve its objectives.

Other major problems with the existing Convention text are that the Convention Area and its boundaries are to a large extent undefined, that there is overlapping jurisdiction in area and species with other already existing fisheries agreements, that the procedures established by the Convention will not provide timely conservation decisions and that the Convention does not adequately take account of the different biological, socio-economic and cultural nature of fisheries in the area north of 20º north. As a result this convention cannot effectively work.

It may be proposed that a Protocol or Agreement be prepared which would amend the Convention provisions before their entry into force. Such a methods were actually followed in a few cases in the past for major conventions. For example, a Protocol was adopted to amend MARPOL 73, and a separate Agreement was made to make major “adjustments” to (in fact amending) Part XI of UNCLOS.

Can the Convention be changed?
Article 40 provides for rules to amend the Convention. Any member of the Commission may propose amendments, which are to be considered at the annual meeting unless a majority of the members request a special meeting to consider the proposed amendment/s. However, since all amendments are to be adopted by consensus, it is unlikely that substantive amendments will be achieved in this manner. That is why Japan intends to keep working by discussion and negotiation to achieve changes to the Convention text before it enters into force.

What will happen if no changes to the Convention are made?
Unless changes to the Convention text are made, it is unlikely that Japan and other major fishing States will adhere to the Convention. This will mean that States who catch approximately 70% of the fish in the area and who would contribute approximately 60% of the budget of the Commission will not participate. It is highly unlikely that a regional fisheries management organization lacking participation of these major players will be able to provide effective fisheries conservation and management.

ENDS

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