Source: FOCUS TAIWAN
Authors: Yang Shu-min and Elizabeth Hsu
Taipei, March 24 (CNA) The Council of Agriculture (COA) slapped a fine of NT$1.2 million (US$39,000) Friday on a fishing boat registered in Donggang, Pingtung County in southeastern Taiwan, for illegally operating in the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.
The move was taken as the Cabinet-level council introduced to the press its newly established fishing activity monitoring center, demonstrating its efforts to shake off a “yellow card” given to Taiwan by the European Union in 2015 for not taking sufficient measures to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
The 24-hour-operating center, which opened in February, is equipped to record the sailing routes of Taiwanese fishing boats operating on the high seas.
COA Minister Lin Tsung-hsien (林聰賢) said in a press conference at the new center in Taipei that the monitoring system can work not just to combat IUU fishing, but also to protect all the fishing boats operating on the high seas.
Should fishery disputes or disputes over fishing rights arise, the relevant data collected by the surveillance and control center can be used as evidence, Lin explained.
“We will protect our fishermen who abide by the law, but will also admonish those who fish illegally, based on international and domestic laws,” Lin said, noting that punishments will be imposed on those who ignore the admonition.
Showing computer images recording the route of the Donggang- registered “Tung Hseng Fu No. 27” fishing boat, indicating that it illegally operated in the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines for several days, Lin at once ordered the penalty.
Under the Act for Distant Water Fisheries, the Tung Hseng Fu No. 27’s operator will be fined NT$1 million, while the skipper will be fined NT$200,000, said Fisheries Agency Director-General Chen Tian-shou (陳添壽) at the press conference.
It is the first fishing boat to be disciplined after the authorities strengthened measures in the fight against IUU fishing, which include introducing stricter regulations governing fishing activities and reinforcing management of fishing boats, in addition to the establishment of the monitoring center.
Asked if Taiwan can get rid of the EU yellow card by the end of this year, Lin said “we will give it a try.”
According to the COA, the EU will make a review by the end of March on the results of Taiwan’s efforts to improve its inadequate monitoring, control and surveillance of long-distance fishing fleets.
In mid-April, COA Deputy Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) will lead a delegation to EU headquarters in Brussels, where they will talk with relevant officials about Taiwan’s current management condition, the council said.
If Taiwan fails to free itself from the yellow card, and is even further slapped with a “red card,” it will be faced with trade sanctions, including a ban on the sale of fish catches to Europe, according to the council.
If so, Taiwan will see immediate trade losses estimated at NT$7 billion per year in fish exports to Europe alone, the COA said.