As the environment of the international fishing industry changes and the overall area of open waters shrink, the heart of the fishing industry will move away from the far seas and move closer to shore.
The government should adjust its development strategies for the fishing industry according to these changes and be more proactive when it comes to conserving Taiwan’s coastal fishing resources. This would allow Taiwanese fishermen to fish without worry in their own waters.
Unfortunately, over the last decade, overfishing, excessive competition between fishermen and coastal areas being polluted by industrial wastewater and household waste have turned Taiwan into an island with almost no fish. Most of the so-called “fresh fish” sold at its fishing ports have been imported.
The government must thoroughly review its policies for the fishing industry and bring in fishing communities to join fishing resource conservation work as this would help increase the fishing resources along the coasts.
The Japanese government has clear rules regulating the management of aquatic resources, stating that those working in the fishing industry should always play the lead role in managing and protecting these resources and work hard to place ocean protection ahead of development. Japan has had great success on this front.
Taiwan’s protection and management systems for aquatic resources are mainly based on the government doing these things. Because laws and systems pertaining to the fishing industry are not complete, Taiwan has had limited success conserving fishing resources. Fishing administrative bodies should push for the management of resources and those working in the industry should establish their own organizations for managing the industry. These organizations should devise and implement resource management measures to help create a stable fishing industry, avoiding cut-throat competition and create a sustainable industry.
The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea gives countries next to oceans the right to explore, develop, conserve and manage natural resources within their own EEZs as well as jurisdiction over a series of special matters such as managing marine research and preventing maritime pollution. Because the seas are related to huge strategic and economic interests such as subsea oil, gas, fishing, mineral and biological resources, they inevitably become the focus of international disputes.
At present, besides the Philippines and Taiwan’s overlapping EEZs, there are more than 100 maritime regions with disputed borders that need to be negotiated. Since Taiwan has already been pulled into the struggle for maritime territory and resources, it needs to be ready, because shouting empty slogans is useless. The only way to stop war is to show we are not afraid of it.
Although this issue will eventually come to some sort of a conclusion, the Ma administration’s biggest challenge is ensuring the safety of Taiwanese fishermen.
Du Yu is a member of the Chen-Li task force for Agricultural Reform.
Translated by Drew Cameron