NZ Closes Ports To Japanese Tuna Boats

  • Simon Upton
Foreign Affairs and Trade

New Zealand has closed its ports to all Japanese boats fishing for Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT), Acting Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Upton and Minister of Fisheries John Luxton said today.

The decision, taken by Cabinet this morning, follows Japan's announcement last week that it would begin an Experimental Fishing Programme in the southern Indian Ocean for an additional 1400 tonnes of SBT from July 10.

Mr Upton and Mr Luxton said the ban would not apply to New Zealand chartered vessels, or to Japanese boats in emergency situations.

"We need to send a strong message to Japan expressing New Zealand's disappointment at their actions, which we believe will pose further risks to the sustainability of the SBT stock already at precariously low levels," the Ministers said.

"Our decision to deny access to Japanese SBT boats is consistent with a similar step taken by the Australian government earlier this year."

"We held off closing our ports in the hope that continuing negotiations would allow us to reach a consensus with Japan on this issue, but their unilateral decision to proceed with the programme requires an appropriate, strong and immediate response."

Mr Upton and Mr Luxton said Japan's action was clearly contrary to the spirit of conservation and sustainable management laid out in the Convention for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna, to which New Zealand, Japan and Australia were signatories.

"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 SBT stock."

The Ministers reiterated New Zealand's commitment to maintaining dialogue with Japan on SBT issues, and said the port closure would be reviewed if Japan reconsidered its experimental fishing decision.

The Ministers said New Zealand had not offered any Japanese SBT vessels licences to fish within the New Zealand EEZ this year, and they did not anticipate any such licences would be offered while the current dispute continued.

Prior to the decision to deny port access to Japanese SBT vessels, Mr Upton summoned the Japanese Ambassador last Wednesday to protest at Japan's decision. A joint representation by Australia and New Zealand was also made to Japan's Foreign Ministry in Tokyo.