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ROC, Japan to continue fishery talks amid dispute

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwan and Japan remain divided on fishing operations in their overlapping waters in the East China Sea, Taiwan's Fishery Agency director-general said yesterday, noting that the two sides will continue talks.

James Sha made the remarks after a Taiwan-Japan fishery commission held talks in Tokyo Dec. 26 on issues related to the regulation of fishing operations in the sensitive waters surrounding the disputed Diaoyutai Islands, which are claimed by both Taiwan and Japan, as well as China.

It was the commission's second meeting since it was established as part of a fisheries agreement 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 pointed out 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 noted.

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 be lasting 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 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 long-line fishing boats while they are operating in the overlapping exclusive economic zones.

The Japanese side proposed that the two sides adopt its operating method, which requires fishing boats to set their lines in a north-south direction and to maintain a four-nautical-mile 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.

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