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Thursday, April 13, 2000

Pacific nations
may sign treaty
to protect tuna

By Susan Kreifels


Results of talks this week by delegates from 28 Pacific nations on ways to protect tuna will be significant to Hawaii, which is surrounded by unregulated high seas attractive to fishing nations.

Jim Cook, chairman of the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council, said this week's conference will determine whether a treaty will be signed this August in Fiji to manage tuna stocks in unregulated water of the central-western Pacific Ocean.

Cook expects discussions to be contentious at the sixth meeting of the Multilateral High-Level Conference being held at the Hawaii Convention Center.

Fishing in waters beyond 200 miles of a country's shores is currently not regulated.

"The high seas around Hawaii will be more and more targeted by (fishing) nations because they are free," Cook said. That's why any treaty is important to the state.

A treaty would create an international body to assess fish stocks and decide if fishing quotas are necessary. Most important to Hawaii would be regulation of big-eye tuna, Cook said.

Under a treaty, any country could enforce regulations. For example, the U.S. Coast Guard could cite a boat from any nation if it was breaking regulations.

The area covered by any treaty would extend from Japan to Hawaii and Australia to the Pitcairn Islands. The area is home to the world's last unexploited and largest tuna fishery.

Similar international management organizations already exist in the north and eastern Pacific.

Issues to be resolved this week include the decision-making process, funding of the management body, and treaty enforcement.

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