Korea-Japan talks on EEZ fishing break down

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Korea-Japan talks on EEZ fishing break down

Korea failed to reach an agreement with Japan on the total amount of fishing allowed in each country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said yesterday.

The breakdown in three days of high-level talks in Seoul from Wednesday to Friday has led to a ban of all Korean fishing boats entering Japan’s exclusive zone from midnight and the same for Japanese fishing boats in Korea’s zone.

The agreement sought with Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries was to be effective from today until June 30, 2015.

“What we requested [from Japan] was to ease fishing conditions for longline fishing and increase the total quota of largehead hairtail (Kalchi) fish [taken from the Japanese EEZ] from the current 2,100 tons to 8,000 tons,” Seoul’s ministry said in a statement. “We then said that if [Japan] does not accept our requests we will enhance regulations including reducing the quota of the purse seine fishery [for catching mackerel] and creating a new restricted area [within Korea’s EEZ].”

Japan did not accept Korea’s proposal and proposed to reduce the quota on longline fishing, citing possible conflicts in its fishing zone and shrinking resources. Largehead hairtail are caught using longline techniques.

Japan asked Korea to allow five 199-ton seine fishing ships in Korea’s exclusive zone, which Korea rejected, citing protection of mackerel resources in Korean waters.

“By domestic law, we do not allow more than 140-ton seine fishing vessels, even for Korean fishing boats,” the ministry said. “We argued that we cannot allow the Japanese vessels.”

The ministry asked that the two countries allow fishing activities to continue in both exclusive zones based on a 2013 agreement so that fishermen from both countries would able to fish without disruption but “Japan rejected this request.”

“It’s become inevitable for fishing boats in both of the EEZs to return to their own zones by midnight,” the ministry said, noting there were about 120 Korean fishing boats in Japan’s exclusive waters.

Meanwhile, the ban will remain in effect until the two sides reach an agreement. The next high-level meeting is expected to be held in July.

BY LEE EUN-JOO [angie@joongang.co.kr]

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