Agreements were made on Friday in the latest round of fishery talks between Taiwan and Japan, but the two sides remain divided on the main issue addressed at the meeting.
The sticking point of the two-day talks that began in Suao (蘇澳) in Yilan County on Thursday involved the direction in which fishing lines are deployed and the distance longline fishing boats must keep between them during operations in the two countries’ overlapping waters.
The Japanese side proposed the adoption of its operating method, in which fishing vessels deploy their lines in a north-south direction and maintain a 4 nautical mile (7.4km) distance between one another.
The Taiwanese side, which has more fishing boats operating in the area, advocated its traditional approach, which is to deploy lines in an east-west direction and maintain a 1 nautical mile distance between boats.
There are about 150 Taiwanese fishing boats operating in the overlapping waters of Taiwan’s and Japan’s marine economic zones, while Japan only has a few dozen.
There are concerns that if Taiwan were to comply with Japan’s request, the number of Taiwanese boats operating in the area would have to be reduced to just 50.
Suao Fishermen’s Association director Chen Chun-sheng (陳春生) said after the talks that the two sides’ operating methods prevented an agreement from being reached on the issue, but a consensus was reached on issues related to insurance and dispute management.
As part of the agreement, the Taiwanese side will ask the Council of Agriculture’s Fisheries Agency to require all Taiwanese fishing boats to have third-party liability insurance, Chen said.
The new requirement will enable fishing vessel crews involved in collisions to simply exchange insurance information and then let their insurance companies handle the claims quickly, he said.
At the moment, some Taiwanese fishing boats operating alongside their Japanese counterparts do not have third-party liability coverage.
The two sides also reached a consensus on establishing a channel for settling disputes, which would enable Chinese and Japanese speakers on land to learn of an incident at sea via radio and help solve the problem.
The two sides also agreed to hold further talks, although no date was set.
The outcomes of the latest talks will be submitted to a bilateral fishery commission for consideration, Chen said.
The series of talks, which have involved foreign affairs and fishery officials and fishing industry representatives from Taiwan and Japan, were held after the signing of a historic bilateral fishery agreement in April.
That agreement allowed Taiwanese fishermen to operate, free of interference by Japanese authorities, in an additional 4,530km2 of waters, mostly near the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), which are claimed by Taiwan, China and Japan, where they are known as the Senkaku Islands.