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An international fisheries management panel began discussions Tuesday on reducing bluefin tuna catches in the Pacific Ocean amid concerns over decimation of young tuna in the region, particularly by Japanese and South Korean fishermen.

The meeting of the Northern Committee of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission is scheduled to run through Friday in Fukuoka, focusing on whether South Korea will agree to reduce its Pacific bluefin tuna catches.

At last year’s session of the full commission, member states including Japan agreed not to increase catches from the 2002-2004 levels and to reduce catches of tuna aged up to 3 years old.

South Korea, however, refused to accept the provisions, leaving the country’s exclusive economic zone outside the agreement’s coverage.

In the leadup to the Northern Committee meeting, the commission’s scientific committee advised countries to reduce their catches of Pacific bluefin tuna, saying catches have been up, mainly of immature fish, in recent years.

The full commission, which has 25 members including Japan, China, Samoa, South Korea and the United States, decides on international resource management measures on fish such as tuna, bonito and swordfish in the Central and Western Pacific.

The Northern Committee covers fishery resources to the north of 20 degrees north latitude.

Whale-watching tax?

SYDNEY (Kyodo) An Australian academic proposes that whale-watching tourists be taxed five Australian dollars (about ¥384) to help compensate Japan for the loss of its whaling industry, a local newspaper reported Tuesday.

Clevo Wilson, an economics professor at the Queensland University of Technology, told The Courier-Mail that paying whalers to stop their annual hunt would be more effective than legal action.

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