In 2008, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) promised voters that he would exploit marine resources to develop the country. However, development of Taiwan’s fishing industry has stagnated in recent years, with the output of inshore and coastal fishing shrinking. The nation used to have a robust offshore fishing industry: It was the world’s second-biggest fisher of tuna and the third-biggest fisher of octopus, making it one of the six biggest fishing nations on the high seas. This strength was not overlooked by international fishing organizations, which brought Taiwan into their organizations and put it on the world’s fishing map.
However, following changes in the international fishing industry’s political and economic environment in recent years, Taiwan’s offshore fishing industry faces the combined challenge of expanding activities and adjusting to international conservation norms. This has caused several problems, including a lack of entry-level workers, reduced quotas for the types of fish that can be caught, increases in operating costs, protests against illegal activities and increased threats to operational safety.
As a result, the overall scale and output of Taiwan’s fishing industry have decreased — from 773,000 tonnes in 2001 to 688,000 tonnes in 2010. This has not only had an impact on the future competition and development of the nation’s fishing industry, it has also considerably weakened its status and clout in international fishing forums. Taiwan’s offshore fishing industry is in danger and its development needs to be redefined and its structure adjusted to respond to global changes. This issue has had a severe impact on many levels, such as the economy and trade, diplomacy and standard of living; however, it has failed to catch the attention of top authorities.
China, on the other hand, has in recent years strengthened its offshore fishing industry and global competitiveness, as well as improving the equipment standard of its fishing fleet and the ability to develop resources on the high seas. It has done this because the development of the offshore fishing industry is essential to protecting food security, easing the stress on inshore fishing resources, spurring social and economic development in fishing areas and improving fishermen’s income, maximizing the domestic supply of aquatic products and promoting economic and technical cooperation with other countries.
China’s offshore fishing fleet consists of 2,200 fishing vessels, up 38 percent from 2001. Last year, its offshore fishing industry’s total output was estimated at 1.15 million tonnes, or 13 billion yuan (US$2.06 billion), with about 600,000 tonnes of aquatic products being brought back to China, from fishing activities extending to the exclusive economic zones of 35 countries as well as the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, the high seas of the Indian Ocean and waters off Antarctica. To further boost global cooperation for its offshore fishing industry and its international fishing quotas, Beijing is holding bilateral talks with seven countries, including Japan and Argentina, and has reached agreements with South Korea, the Cook Islands and Kiribati to expand its fishing territory and influence in international fishing industry forums.
China has 340 boats for fishing tuna and 470 for catching octopus, and deep-sea fishing makes up about 50 percent of its offshore fishing industry. The structure of China’s fishing industry has gone through some obvious improvements.