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Minister discusses how Japan has exceeded its quotas of southern bluefin tuna.



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This transcript has been prepared by a source external to the Parliamentary Library.

 

It may not have been checked against the broadcast or in an y other way. Freedom from error, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.

 

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AM

 

Monday 16 October 2006

Minister discusses how Japan has exceeded its quotas of southern bluefin tuna

 

TONY EASTLEY: While Federal Cabinet ponders the conservation of resources and productivity on the land, Japan has been caught out cheating on the world's ocean resources. 

 

It's been dragged into line by other fishing nations after it was found to have plundered the world's stocks of southern bluefin tuna. 

 

A report by the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin has found that Japan had illegally caught up to $6 billion worth of the fish over the past 20 years. 

 

The report also found if Japan had stuck to what it was supposed to catch, the stock of Southern Bluefin would be at least five times larger. 

 

While the Federal Government says Japan's overcatch is "almost unforgivable," it does accept that Japan has finally mended its ways. 

 

From Canberra, Gillian Bradford reports. 

 

GILLIAN BRADFORD: Since the mid 1980's Japan has defied every country that's tried to stop it illegally fishing Southern Bluefin tuna. 

 

And it wasn't just taking a little bit extra. According to Australia's Fisheries Minister, Eric Abetz, Japan has now owned up to taking well over 100,000 tonnes above its quota of one of the world's most expensive fish. 

 

ERIC ABETZ: It is substantial, it was a very, very large sum of money, and whether it's $1 billion, $4 billion or $6 billion, it is, in anybody's language, an horrendous overcatch. 

 

GILLIAN BRADFORD: The Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna has now ordered Japan must pay the price for its years of overfishing. Its annual quota will be more than halved to 3,000 tonnes, while other fishing nations, including Australia, get to keep their existing limits. 

 

The Fisheries Minister, Eric Abetz, says it's a win for countries that have stuck to the rules. 

 

ERIC ABETZ: Given that there is now an acknowledgment on their part that there has been an overcatch, a substantial overcatch, their willingness now to halve the allocated quota as some recompense for that which has occurred in the past, I think we can be confident that we're moving into a new era of genuine cooperation in relation to the tuna fishery. 

 

GILLIAN BRADFORD: Well, they have refused to cooperate for so long. How can you be sure now that Japan will do the right thing and stick to the quota? 

 

ERIC ABETZ: We've got to accept them at their word, but the most important and significant breakthrough was the Japanese acknowledgement that there had been an overcatch, and now their acceptance of taking a substantial penalty.  

 

That is indicative of a country that is willing to acknowledge that things went wrong, they do have to make up, and I think in those circumstances we can be relatively certain that they will cooperate. 

 

GILLIAN BRADFORD: Has this been a difficult diplomatic issue? Because obviously the Japanese Government has been complicit in some way in failing to police their own industry? 

 

ERIC ABETZ: What I do know is that the new Japanese Government has done the right thing and agreed to take this cut. What previous Japanese governments may or may not have done is a matter for speculation, albeit very disappointing that the overcatch that did occur occurred for so many years. 

 

TONY EASTLEY: Fisheries Minister, Senator Eric Abetz.