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Australia, N.Z. seek resolution over tuna dispute.

SYDNEY, Sept. 1 Kyodo

Australia said Tuesday it has initiated formal dispute resolution proceedings against Japan, after a similar move Monday by New Zealand, to halt Japan's ''experimental'' fishing of dwindling southern bluefin tuna.

Australian Resources Minister Warwick Parer said the proceedings were instituted through the Convention for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) -- a voluntary agreement reached in 1993 among Australia, New Zealand and Japan to allocate quotas to maintain the species.

Parer said in a statement, ''Given the importance of the matter, we urge Japan to join us at the negotiating table as a matter of urgency'' and to resolve the dispute within 30 days.

Parer said the Australian government had informed Tokyo that its experimental fishing program placed it in breach of several of its obligations under international law, including the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea and the CCSBT.

Parer said it was unfortunate this year's fishing program could not be stopped.

''However, Japan appears set on repeating the program in a similar vein next year and possibly beyond. Our efforts to resolve the dispute are therefore directed at ensuring this kind of program is not repeated and that appropriate remedial action is taken with respect to the impact of this year's fishing,'' he said.

Parer's announcement followed a similar statement released Monday by New Zealand's acting Foreign Minister Simon Upton and John Luzton, minister for food, fiber, bio-security and border control.

The statement said, ''New Zealand and Australia are very concerned about the scientific validity of Japan's experimental fishing program, and we do not accept that any information generated by the program would justify the further depletion of SBT (southern bluefin tuna) stock....We need to ensure that this kind of unilateral action does not happen again.''

Talks under the CCSBT broke down earlier this year when Australia and New Zealand rejected Japan's request for an increased quota for 1998, as well as an additional catch of 1,400 tons under the experimental fishing program.

Japan, nevertheless, went ahead with the program starting in July.

As a result, Japanese fishing vessels have been banned from Australian waters since March and from New Zealand ports since July.

Greenpeace activist Darren Gladman said Tuesday the dispute resolution process was a ''positive step'' but would not save the fish from extinction.

He criticized the Australian government for failing to nominate southern bluefin tuna for protection under the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), despite evidence from Australian scientists that the species meets the criteria for a CITES listing.

A Greenpeace statement released Tuesday said the Australian government would not nominate the species for a CITES listing because it feared a ''political backlash'' from Japan.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Date:Sep 7, 1998
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