There is also a serious problem with unwanted, less-profitable fish — the bycatch — getting caught in the nets along with the intended catch, and thrown back into the ocean. The vast majority of this discarded catch do not survive the process, and this is a terrible waste.
The competent authorities should be more pro-active in pushing for the introduction of some form of resource management within the industry, allowing fishermen to organize themselves into self-governing bodies and devise their own measures with which they can manage the fishery stocks and introduce an element of stability into the industry. Only then will they avoid the kind of destructive competition that is going on at the moment, and make the fish stocks, and their own livelihood, more sustainable.
We are already at the point where the degree of depletion of Taiwan’s near-shore fishery stocks demands that immediate action be taken. Self-regulation within the fishery industry works: There are success stories overseas to prove it, and the government should take note of this. Things need to change in the way we approach the issue as a nation, in the way fishermen operate, in what resources are made available and in the laws currently in place, in light of what is being achieved in other countries. These need to take into account Ostrom’s theory of collective self-governance’s focus on the importance of local self-determination. If we want to preserve the image of the idyllic life of the fisherman, we really need to look after the oceans better than we are at present.
Du Yu is chief executive officer of the Chen-Li Task Force for Agricultural Reform.
Translated by Paul Cooper