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By Jack Metta

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (February 27, 2002 - The National/PINA Nius Online)---The Federated States of Micronesia beat Papua New Guinea by two votes to win the bid to host the headquarters of a new regional fishing body commonly called the Tuna Commission.

It won by nine votes to seven in a secret ballot among the 16 Pacific Islands Forum nations.

The new body is officially known as the Commission for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific.

The vote was held as part of the Preparatory Conference to the Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, being held in Madang.

Nine countries had applied to host the headquarters: Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Federated States of Micronesia, Tonga, the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Samoa, and the Marshall Islands.

More than 200 delegates from Pacific islands areas and other interested parties from Asia, Europe and the Americas are in Papua New Guinea for the fisheries meetings.

According to a highly placed source, delegation leaders were taken on a tour of a floor of Deloittes Tower in downtown Port Moresby last week. There they were shown what was to be Papua New Guinea's K 1 million (US$ 268,400) investment in the commission's proposed office.

Fisheries Minister Ron Ganarafo, who stood in for the Prime Minister at yesterday's official opening of the convention, congratulated the Federated States of Micronesia on its success.

He said: "We are resolved to develop a commission that can develop effective and legally binding conservation and management measures; that would be cost-effective and that would not prejudice the sovereign rights of coastal states or the needs of fishing nations.

"While there are many issues -- political, technical and administrative issues -- to be dealt with in this process, I am confident that our mutual interest will prevail."

However, Japan, one of the world's major fishing nations, is not attending the Papua New Guinea meetings. It disagrees with certain aspects of the convention.

A statement from the Japanese Government, channeled through the Japanese Embassy in Port Moresby, said these include methods of boarding and inspecting foreign-owned vessels, decision-making processes, dispute settlement procedures and observer programs.

Yesterday, Mr. Ganarafo said: "One member, to the detriment of all, has often vetoed control measures."

He said in the past ways were found to carve up the resources among the major fishing nations, with little reference to the interests of coastal states.

"The reason we are here is that we are conscious of these past failures," said Mr. Ganarafo.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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