Four-nation eel talks on ice because of Chinese objections


Negotiations among Japan, China, South Korea and Taiwan on resource management of the Japanese eel, which is in danger of extinction, have been suspended since June, Jiji Press has learned.

This is because China has been reluctant to accept a proposal to establish a treaty to regulate the amount of farmed glass eel, according to sources.

Under the circumstances, there is a possibility the Japanese eel will be added to the list of species for which commercial trade is restricted, at a meeting in South Africa from late September of signatories to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), better known as the Washington Convention, the sources said Thursday.

If imports are restricted, prices could go up for kabayaki grilled eel and unadon, a bowl of rice topped with fillets of grilled eel, both delicacies for Japanese.

Japan hopes to prevent the Japanese eel from being put on the CITES list, by emphasizing that the four Asian economies are making sufficient efforts to more effectively manage eel stocks. But Tokyo will likely have to overhaul its strategy in the negotiations, the sources said.

In September 2014, Japan, China, South Korea and Taiwan agreed to reduce the amount of glass eel put into aquaculture ponds by 20 percent from year-before levels, the first such international regulation.

Based on the accord, Japan decided to limit the amount at 21.6 tons in the fishing year to October 2015. Actually, however, only 18.3 tons of glass eel were put into farming ponds in the period, due partly to a drop in imports reflecting poor catches.

With the accord not legally binding, the four economies started talks in February 2015 on concluding a treaty for eel stock management.

But as China has argued that it is difficult to formulate legally binding measures, the four-way negotiations hit a snag at a session in June last year, according to the sources. A meeting slated for September 2015 was also canceled, the sources said.

The Fisheries Agency is making efforts to jump-start the negotiations, but sees little hope for a restart.