Next Steps For Bluefin Tuna Issue

  • Simon Upton
Foreign Affairs and Trade

New Zealand is formally setting in process a procedure to resolve the dispute over Japan's experimental fishing of the depleted Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT) stock.

Acting Foreign Minister Simon Upton and Fisheries Minister John Luxton today announced that New Zealand was instituting formal resolution processes in order to resolve the dispute with Japan over its Experimental Fishing Programme (EFP).

The EFP, which was commenced without the consent of New Zealand or Australia, involves a catch of 1400 tonnes of SBT above Japan's last agreed allocation of 6065 tonnes. The three countries are parties to the Convention for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna, which provides that fishing only be conducted with the consent of all parties.

"New Zealand and Australia are very concerned about the scientific validity of Japan's Experimental Fishing Programme and we do not accept that any information generated by the programme would justify the further depletion of the SBT stock," Mr Upton and Mr Luxton said in a joint statement.

"We have made suggestions to Japan to improve the scientific design of the EFP so that New Zealand and Australia could agree to it. These have not been taken fully on board by Japan and the EFP has proceeded without the consent of Convention members. There is a dispute about the legality of the EFP and this must be resolved," the Ministers said.

Mr Upton and Mr Luxton said Japan's action ran counter to the spirit of conservation and sustainable management laid out in the Convention. They also noted that the unilateral programme was inconsistent with Japan's conservation and cooperation obligations under customary international law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Mr Upton hoped that Japan would agree to start the dispute resolution process immediately.

"We want to see a successful outcome to this process so that we can go back to the business of responsibly managing the SBT stock," said Mr Upton. "We need to ensure that this kind of unilateral action does not happen again and to rectify any damage to the stock from Japan's current EFP."

This decision follows the Government's announcement in July that Japanese SBT boats would be denied access to New Zealand ports.