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August 31, 1999
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UN tribunal halts Japanese tuna over-fishing

CANBERRA - A decision to stop Japan's experimental fishing program of the threatened southern bluefin tuna has added to Australia's determination to resolve the problem.

The United Nations International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg granted an injunction sought by Australia and New Zealand, barring Japan from raising its annual 6,065-tonne quota.

The injunction restricting Japan to quota catch limits agreed between the three countries, was welcomed by Attorney-General Daryl Williams and Fisheries Minister Warren Truss. ''The decision of the tribunal at this initial stage has given added impetus to our resolve to obtain a decision in this case which will provide a lasting resolution to the dispute,'' the ministers said in a joint statement. ''The tribunal has . . . quite properly prevented Japan from unilaterally increasing its catch by almost 20 percent.''

The decision follows a lengthy battle by Australia and New Zealand to stop Japan exceeding quota limits for the fish agreed in the three-nation Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna. Australia and New Zealand argue that the agreed quotas, which allow Australia 5,265 tonnes and New Zealand 420 tonnes, must stay in place to protect stocks.

But Japan has argued an experimental fishing program, which last year netted 1,400 tonnes, can be justified. The Japanese Foreign Minister, Masahiko Komura, described the judgement as ''regrettable'', saying Japan's views had not been fully understood.

The tribunal's decision has resulted in a ban on Japanese boats entering Australian ports or fishing within its fishing zone. Williams and Truss said the action taken in the tribunal reflected Australia's serious concerns on the issue but would not adversely affect the country's bilateral relationship with Japan.

The tribunal has called for the three countries to submit a report no later than October 6, 1999, on their compliance with provisional measures it has prescribed, which include that they must abide by agreed quotas. Further international action to finally resolve the issue is expected to be taken by Australia and New Zealand.

(Asia Pulse)

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