Source: Taipei Times
Author: Lin Chia-nan
Council of Agriculture Minister Lin Tsung-hsien (林聰賢) yesterday said he is optimistic that Taiwan can be removed from the European Commission’s warning list on illegal fishing this year, but Greenpeace Taiwan disagrees.
The European Commission in October 2015 issued a warning “yellow card” to Taiwan for its inadequate efforts to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, but since then the council has tightened its management of marine fishing by proposing amendments to three laws and implementing 15 new regulations, Fisheries Agency Director-General Chen Tian-shou (陳添壽) told a news conference in Taipei.
It set up an around-the-clock Fisheries Monitoring Center in Taipei in February and has increased its number of observers on fishing vessels to 130, more than double the 55 it had in 2015, he said.
The agency had issued 35 fines to vessel operators as of Sept. 20, Deep Sea Fisheries Division specialist Tsai Tien-hsiang (蔡天享) said.
One operator was fined NT$6 million (US$197,284) after applying to have its vessel’s catch unloaded in Japan, but actually unloading it in China, Tsai said.
Another operator was fined NT$2 million for failing to report fish catch data through the agency’s electronic-logbook system while its vessel was in the Indian Ocean, he added.
Owners of deep-sea fishing vessels were often fined after repeated violations, but the council did not punish them for minor offenses, Lin said.
However, Taiwan Tuna Longline Association secretary-general Ho Shih-chieh (何世杰) said Lin’s comments were not entirely true.
Several Pingtung County-based fishermen had to pay millions of dollars for insignificant violations, such as omitting a report to the agency or obscuring the vessel’s identification marks, Ho said.
“The council’s direction [to combat IUU fishing] is correct, but it is not considerate enough when enforcing regulations,” he said.
“As the new regulations just came into force in January, it is impossible for fishermen to understand all of them in such a short time,” Ho said.
The Fisheries Agency should make the channels for filing complaints more accessible to fishermen who do not accept its sanctions, he said.
Meanwhile, Greenpeace Taiwan said it was “not that optimistic” that Taiwan would be removed from the commission’s warning list this year.
The EU is likely to extend its observation on Taiwan’s marine fishing for three reasons: the nation’s data on fishing activities is not open enough; its practical cooperation with other nations is insufficient; and a shortage of vessel observers means the illegal exchange of catches between fishing boats continues unchecked, the organization said.
European Commission officials are scheduled to visit Taiwan in the middle of this month to evaluate fishery-related reforms.
Additional reporting by staff writer.