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Taiwan has agreed to reduce the size of its big eye tuna boats by 41 percent to 280 vessels by the end of 2007 from 474 vessels in 2005 in response to the decline in big eye stocks worldwide, the Fisheries Agency announced Thursday.

The fleet reduction may lead to higher tuna prices on the Japanese market because almost all big eye tuna caught by Taiwanese boats are exported to Japan.

The agreement was reached in a meeting Friday in Tokyo between the the two sides’ de facto diplomatic representatives — the Interchange Association, Japan and the Association of East Asian Relations of Taiwan.

Senior fisheries officials from the two governments attended as observers. Japan has had no official diplomatic ties with Taiwan since 1972, when it switched recognition to Beijing.

Japan imports some 120,000 to 130,000 tons of big eye tuna from Taiwan annually. After Taiwan’s fleet reduction, the figure is forecast to fall below 100,000 tons.

The Fisheries Agency said overfishing has depleted big eye tuna stocks around the world.

While acknowledging prices are likely to rise, the agency said Taiwan’s fleet reduction is necessary to help make tuna catches sustainable.

Big eye tuna, a medium-size species, is found in many areas along the equator and can grow to up to 2 meters long and weigh up to 100 kg.

Big eye tuna have been under tighter international control in the Atlantic than in the Pacific.

In 2004, Taiwan has attempted to get around the regulations by falsely labeling big eye tuna caught in the Atlantic as having been caught in the Pacific and exporting them to Japan, according to Japanese officials.

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