Second round of Japan fishing talks commences

Staff writer, with CNA

Fri, Dec 06, 2013 - Page 3

A second round of fishery talks between Taiwan and Japan began in Suao, Yilan County, yesterday to discuss disputes relating to longline fishing grounds.

Representatives of Taiwan’s fishermen’s associations, as well as officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Fisheries Agency, attended the first day of the two-day meeting.

On the Japanese side, fishermen’s representatives, as well as foreign affairs and fishery officials attended the closed-door meeting.

The first round of talks was held in Okinawa in May and covered disputes when operating in overlapping waters, but it failed to achieve substantive consensus.

Sources said that Japanese longline fishing vessels tend to deploy their fishing gear in a north-south direction, while Taiwanese boats generally deploy in an east-west direction, which means that their fishing gear can become entwined, prompting disputes.

The focus of yesterday’s talks was to exchange views on this issue.

Chen Chun-sheng (陳春生), head of the Suao Fishermen’s Association, said before the meeting that there are around 150 Taiwanese fishing boats operating in Taiwan-Japan overlapping waters, while Japan only has a few dozen.

The Japanese side hopes that the Taiwanese fishing boats will start deploying their lines in a north-south direction and that the distance between each ship can be increased from the current 1 nautical mile to at least 4 nautical miles.

Chen said that if Taiwan were to comply with Japan’s request, the number of Taiwanese ships operating in the overlapping areas would have to be reduced to just 50, which would have a severe impact on fishing hauls.

He expressed hope that substantive agreement can be reached in the current round of talks.

Taiwan and Japan reached a fishing agreement in April after on-and-off negotiations that lasted for nearly 17 years.

Under the agreement, Taiwanese and Japanese boats can operate freely in a 74,300km2 area around the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), known in Japan as the Senkaku Islands.

That agreement gave Taiwanese fishermen an additional 4,530km2 in which they can operate free of harassment by the Japanese authorities.

The Diaoyutais, about 100 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan, are claimed by Taiwan, Japan and China. The surrounding waters have long been traditional fishing grounds for Taiwanese fishermen, but they are routinely chased away from the area by the Japanese authorities when they venture too close to what Japan sees as its territorial waters.