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TOKYO, Japan (April 24, 2001 – Asia Pulse/Asia Times Online)---Japan's Fisheries Agency said on Monday it will not attend the Preparatory Conference for the Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, being held in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Masayuki Komatsu, spokesman for the agency, said: "Japan is concerned that the convention as adopted last year does not adequately provide for the conservation of these stocks in the region but unfortunately, New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific Island states have rejected our proposals to have discussions on how to improve the convention and to allow participation of all states with a real interest in the fisheries of the area. That is why we will not attend the conference."

Japan and Korea voted against the convention, and China, France and Tonga abstained at its adoption at the seventh conference session held last September.

"Japan is a world leader in responsible fisheries but under these circumstances, we cannot participate in the preparatory conference. We are concerned that the convention as adopted is unlikely to achieve its goal of ensuring the long-term conservation and optimum use of these resources for present and future generations so we are committed to continuing our efforts to seek improvements," Komatsu said.

Komatsu explained that the convention, which was finalized last year but has yet to enter into force, has a number of serious flaws that will prevent its effective implementation. These include the fact that it excludes a number of states with a real interest in the fisheries of the area; that the boundaries of the convention area are not defined; that there is overlapping jurisdiction in area and species with other already existing fisheries agreements; that the procedures established by the convention will not provide timely conservation decisions; and, that the convention does not adequately take account of the different biological, socio-economic and cultural nature of fisheries in the area.

Komatsu explained that because of these flaws, many possible members, particularly fishing states, will unlikely adhere to the convention. "It is obvious that a convention without the major fishing states simply won't be effective," he said.

The meeting in Christchurch, April 23-28, is aimed at establishing draft regulations to implement the convention. "We regret that Japan's proposals to discuss improvement to the convention and to include those with a real interest have been rejected," said Komatsu.

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