TERRITORIAL DISPUTES

Taiwan, Japan agree to modify fishing pact for disputed East China Sea islands

Tokyo and Taipei extend territory and time slots for trawlers operating in zone also claimed by Beijing in diplomatic move indicating continuing dialogue

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 March, 2015, 6:16pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 March, 2015, 6:16pm

Japan and Taiwan have agreed to amend fishing regulations in a landmark fisheries pact covering waters off a cluster of Taiwan-claimed, Japan-administered islands in the East China Sea, the Foreign Ministry in Taipei said on Saturday.

The ministry said in a statement that the Taiwan-Japan joint fishery committee reached the agreement on Friday after three days of talks in Tokyo.

Taiwan and Japan signed a bilateral fisheries pact in April 2013 to allow reciprocal fishing in what Japan regards as its exclusive economic zone near the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands, known as the Tiaoyutai in Taiwan and the Diaoyus in China, which also claim them.

The pact covers three fishing zones, including a “special cooperation zone,” where each side manages its own fishing boats.

Under the modified plan, Japanese and Taiwanese trawlers operating in the inverted triangle area north of the Yaeyama Islands, the southernmost tip of the Ryukyu archipelago, and the “special cooperation zone” will be allowed more time slots and “more proper” distance.

There is also an area of smaller inverted triangle zones in the south where Taiwanese fishing trawlers can operate and where the fish stock is bountiful.

Under the pact, a joint fish committee was established to pursue issues the two sides failed to resolve during their negotiations, including fishing in waters surrounding the Senkakus as well as waters near the Yaeyama Islands.

The agreement was reached by the Association for East Asian Relations, the Taiwan agency in charge of handling ties with Japan, and the Interchange Association, Japan’s de facto embassy in Taipei in the absence of formal relations.

Since the landmark fisheries pact was signed two years ago, fishing regulations have been an issue.

Some Japanese fishermen have called on their government to reduce the size of the agreed-upon area. Others have complained that the pact failed to take their interests into account, saying Taiwanese trawlers have more waters to operate in and should stay away from the areas covered by the agreement until new sets of fishing rules are established.

Taiwanese and Japanese fishermen came to a consensus on fishing order in March last year, allowing each side’s fishing vessels to operate using their respective fishing methods in designated areas.

While the regulations were in effect during last year’s fishing season, both sides agreed to meet again this year to renegotiate them before the fishing season begins in April.