Thursday, February 01, 2007

Japan, EU agree to slash tuna catch amid extinction fears

TOKYO (AFP) - The European Union and Japan have agreed to slash their tuna quotas by more than 20 percent in an effort to prevent the immensely popular fish being hunted to extinction. Wednesday's deal is in line with a decision by an international commission to cut the total hunt of bluefin tuna in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean by 20 percent by 2010.Three days of negotiations in Tokyo yielded an agreement on how to split the increasingly lucrative tuna quotas among 43 countries and regions.The European Union -- which has the largest quota -- agreed to an incremental 20.7 percent cut to 14,504 tonnes by 2010 from 18,301 tonnes in 2006, the Japanese Fisheries Agency said in a statement."The negotiations were tough because it was a matter of who gets how much share out of a limited total," Fisheries Agency official Masanori Miyahara told a news conference.The EU's share of the total catch in the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean would remain barely changed at just under 57 percent.Environmentalists have warned that tuna face eventual extinction if fishing continues at current rates to feed a worldwide fad for Japanese food.But negotiations faced difficulty as tuna fishing is an increasingly lucrative industry, particularly for developing economies which export to Japan.Morocco, which has the second-largest quota, will reduce its catch by 23.2 percent to 2,441 tonnes by 2010, the Fisheries Agency said.Japan, which eats a quarter of the world's tuna and sends boats worldwide to catch the fish, agreed to a quota of 2,175 tonnes in 2010, down from 2,830 tonnes in 2006, the agency said.But Turkey, which had resisted slashing its quota, will see its catch go down by only 13.6 percent between 2007 and 2010."Turkey's historical catch amount and historical rights clearly have been neglected by the commission," a Turkish delegate who was not identified told Tokyo Broadcasting System television.The 43-member International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas decided in November to scale back gradually the total catch of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic from 32,000 tonnes in 2006 to 25,500 tonnes in 2010.But the November meeting in Croatia failed to set national quotas."It was good that they came to an agreement," Yuichiro Harada, managing director of the Organization for the Promotion of Responsible Tuna Fisheries, an industry group, said of the Tokyo talks."Even if the total reduction was set, each country cannot actually take action without national quotas to reach the goal," he said.The Tokyo-based industry group has demanded a moratorium on the use of additional large tuna vessels."The next step is to watch the countries so that they won't export more than the quotas while Japan needs to make sure it does not import over exporters' allowed capacity," Harada said. In another bid to save the fish, Japan last week hosted a conference bringing together the world's five regional tuna conservation bodies for the first time. The meeting of 60 countries and areas agreed to step up cooperation to monitor tuna populations, although environmentalists were disappointed that it set no new catch limits.

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