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International talks on overfishing in May

Fishing Industry

OTTAWA, Canada (Reuters) -- Canada will host international talks in May on what needs to be done to protect the world's dwindling fish stocks from rampant overfishing, officials said on Thursday.

Around 70 countries have been invited to the May 1-5 conference in the Atlantic province of Newfoundland to discuss what has become a major political and environmental problem.

An influential group of British scientists said last month that one-third of the world's oceans should be declared protected areas to stop the slaughter of fish species.

Canadian officials said the the talks would focus on how to ensure the 1995 United Nations Fish Agreement -- designed to help protect fish stocks -- could be made more effective.

"It's a good document. It obliges states to be more co-operative and to see they control the vessels that come from their countries ... but that's not happening enough," said David Bevan of Canada's federal fisheries ministry.

"(We want) an action plan to move from the words on the paper to actions on the sea. That connection isn't adequate in our view right now," he told a news conference.

Overfishing is a major problem for Canada, which cracked down last year on foreign boats catching protected species just outside its territorial waters.

Bevan said that the number of vessels fishing in prohibited areas had dropped to 94 last year compared with 113 in 2003.

"Our message to international vessel owners and crews is clear: Canada is watching you closely and overfishing will not be tolerated," he said.

Last month Canada closed its ports to fishing vessels from Greenland and the Faroe Islands in a dispute over shrimp fishing.

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