• Short Summary

    Japan and the Soviet Union have signed an interim fishing agreement covering Russian operations within Japan's 200 mile limits.

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    Japan and the Soviet Union have signed an interim fishing agreement covering Russian operations within Japan's 200 mile limits. But the agreement sidestepped the problem of four islands in the Southern Kuriles claimed by Japan but occupied by the Soviet Union since World War Two.

    SYNOPSIS: The agreement was signed in Tokyo on Thursday (4 August) by the Japanese agriculture and Forestry Minister Zenko Suzuki and his counterpart from the Soviet Union, fisheries minister Alexander Ishkov.

    It allows Soviet fishermen to catch 335,000 tons (tonnes) in the newly declared Japanese zone between July and December. That's a decrease of 31 percent on the same period in 1976. There have also been big reductions made in the Soviet zone for the Japanese, who eat more fish than the people of any other country. They'll have to be satisfied with just 63 percent of the catch they took in Russian waters before the pact. But the agreement only stays in effect until the end of the year and negotiations to establish a permanent convention between the two countries are expected to begin in the autumn.

    A heated dispute over fishing rights began when the Russians proclaimed a 200 mile (320 kms) fishing limit last December. They insisted that the zone included the four islands in the Southern Kuriles which formerly belonged to Japan and this insistence led to intense anti-Soviet feeling among the Japanese. Ten Thousand boats and one hundred and forty thousand Japanese fishermen were made idle. The breakthrough finally can?? in May at a meeting of Soviet and Japanese officials in Moscow.

    The Russians proposed an amendment which said that the Japanese claim to the islands now occupied by the Soviet Union would not be prejudiced. That cleared the way for final approval by both sides at Thursday's ceremony, and ended the bitter feelings between the two countries.

    Both Japan and Russia are still faced with greatly reduced catches caused by 200 mile limits imposed by the Common Market and United States -- and the Japanese may be forced to change their age-old eating habits.

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