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Taipei fishing pact comes into force

Kyodo, JIJI

Japan and Taiwan have completed legal procedures to enforce a bilateral fishery agreement, concluded in April, that allows Taiwanese fishing boats to operate in Japan’s 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone near the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea from Friday, Tokyo government officials said.

The Fisheries Agency, an arm of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, has sent fishery patrol boats to the waters to keep watch on Taiwanese fishing boats in the zone.

No reports of trouble have so far been filed with Taiwanese or Japanese authorities, the officials said.

On April 10 in Taipei, Japan and Taiwan signed the agreement, which designates an area in Japan’s EEZ as jointly managed waters.

Tuna fishing has reached its peak season around the Senkakus, which both China and Taiwan claim.

In its Friday edition, the United Daily News, a major Taiwanese daily, reported that Taiwan’s fisheries cooperative association urged Taiwanese fishermen not to cause trouble with their Japanese counterparts.

Some Japanese tuna boats headed for waters south of Ishigaki Island to avoid trouble with Taiwanese vessels north of the island, which is covered by the Japan-Taiwan fishery pact, according to the Yaeyama fishing cooperative, which is based in the city of Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture.

Yoshimasa Hayashi, minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, told the day’s news conference that the Fisheries Agency will deploy many fishery surveillance ships to the waters covered by the bilateral pact and tighten controls on any illegal fishing there.

In Naha, Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima reiterated his opposition to the bilateral fishery pact, saying he believes Japan and Taiwan neglected Okinawa’s fishermen in concluding it.

“It is extremely regrettable,” Nakaima told reporters. “We will continue to seek explanations until we are satisfied.”

Nakaima added, “We can only hope there will be no trouble,” urging the central government to contact the Taiwanese side should a problem occur.

Okinawa fishermen are concerned about the pact because no operational rules have been set for the Taiwanese boats now allowed to operate in Japan’s EEZ.

They are especially concerned about possible friction with Taiwanese fishing boats and reduced catches in the designated joint zone, which is rich in bluefin tuna.

In late April, Nakaima visited Tokyo with Okinawa fishermen to hand the government a request to modify the fishing pact with Taiwan.

The Fisheries Agency said it has doubled the number of its patrol boats to 10 to keep watch on foreign fishing boats.

Under the pact, Japan allows Taiwanese fishing vessels to operate in its EEZ. Japan and Taiwan are expected to convene a bilateral panel later this year to compile detailed rules for fishing operations in Japan’s EEZ, government sources said.

The uninhabited Senkakus are technically under the jurisdiction of the city of Ishigaki.

China has repeatedly sent maritime surveillance vessels into Japanese waters around the islets, leading to tense standoffs with Japan Coast Guard vessels patrolling the waters.