Taiwan and Japan remain divided on fishing operations in their overlapping waters in the East China Sea, Fisheries Agency Director-General James Sha (沙志一) said on Saturday, adding that the two sides would continue talks.
Sha made the remarks after a Taiwan-Japan fishery commission held talks in Tokyo on Thursday on issues related to the regulation of fishing operations in the sensitive waters surrounding the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), which are claimed by both Taiwan and Japan, where they are known as the Senkaku Islands, as well as China.
It was the commission’s second meeting since it was established as part of a fisheries agreement between the two countries, signed in April, to resolve controversies over fishing in waters surrounding the islands, which are under Japan’s control.
Under the agreement, fishing vessels from both nations can operate in a large area within the designated zone without being subject to the jurisdiction of the other side, while a smaller area of the zone, in which Japanese fishing vessels frequently operate, is under joint management by the two governments.
Sha said that because of the proximity of the area to Japan, Japanese fishing boats operating in the overlapping waters are relatively smaller than those from Taiwan.
Because of the difference, the two sides’ fishing methods in the waters are different, he said.
Because the fishermen from the two countries want their own interests to be taken care of, the only way for the bilateral fisheries agreement to last is by “continuing the mutual talks before the two sides find a fishing method they can both accept,” Sha said.
With that goal in mind, Japan has expressed hope that the disputes can be settled before next year’s tuna season, which falls between April and June, the official added.
Earlier this month, representatives from fishermen’s associations on both sides met in the Yilan County port of Suao (蘇澳) in eastern Taiwan for talks about the differences in their fishing operations.
One sticking point of the meeting involved the direction in which fishing lines are deployed and the distance maintained between longline fishing boats while they are operating in the overlapping exclusive economic zones.
The Japanese delegation proposed that the two sides adopt its operating methods, which require fishing boats to set their lines in a north-south direction and to maintain a four nautical mile (7.4km) distance between each boat.
The Taiwanese side, which has more fishing boats operating in the area, advocated keeping its traditional approach, which is to deploy lines in an east-west direction and maintain a one nautical mile distance between boats.
Discussions at the Suao meeting failed to produce a resolution, but the two sides agreed to continue negotiations.