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International Regulators Agree on First Plan to Protect Tuna


A meeting in Japan of government regulators, conservationists and members of the fishing industry has agreed on the world's first coordinated plan to protect declining stocks of tuna. The agreement includes controls on illegal fishing, limiting the size of fishing fleets, and the sharing of information across borders. Yuriko Nagano reports from Tokyo.

The meeting in the Japanese port city of Kobe this week was the first to bring together the major tuna conservation bodies from around the world. Japan, which called the meeting, is the world's leading consumer of tuna, eating about one quarter of the global catch.

Full details of Friday's agreement were not immediately available, but delegates to the meeting had called for better coordination to monitor the tuna industry, and to blacklist illegal fishing vessels. There were also calls for international cooperation to reduce over-fishing and rebuild depleted stocks.

Yuichiro Harada, managing director of the Tokyo-based Organization for the Promotion of Responsible Tuna Fisheries, says only a coordinated worldwide effort can halt the dangerous decline in tuna stocks.

Harada says it is clear that to save tuna, a global effort is needed.

Harada's organization represents fishermen who catch high-quality tuna, plus distributors and wholesalers and some consumer groups. He says putting a limit on tuna fishing is important, as the current rate is not sustainable.

Developed countries such as the United States, Canada and Australia have individually called for tougher controls on tuna fishing, including reducing the size of fishing fleets. But developing countries, especially in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean, have been hesitant to accept controls.

Japan, which initiated the conference, is the leading consumer of tuna in the world. Top-quality tuna, used in sushi and sashimi, is one of the most sought-after and expensive commodities in Tokyo's Tsukiji seafood market, and the worldwide popularity of Japanese food has placed added pressure on tuna stocks.

The conservationist group WWF International was monitoring the Kobe conference. The group's spokeswoman called the resolution disappointing, as it failed to set actual fishing quotas.

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