Wed, Jun 24, 2015 - Page 8 News List

Becoming a true maritime nation

By Lee Wu-chung 李武忠

On the final day of the past legislative session, the legislature finally passed four maritime-related bills. The legislation covered the establishment and governance of a maritime commission, a maritime conservation administration and a national maritime research institute as part of the commission, as well as placing the Coast Guard Administration under the management of the commission.

The legislation is a significant step toward unifying the management of Taiwan’s diverse and complex maritime affairs. However, it would be a mistake to believe that Taiwan is making great strides toward becoming a true maritime nation — and the public must pay close attention to the next stage of the process.

Oceans perform a variety of functions, including climate regulation and oxygen production. Oceans are also habitats for marine life that provide a bountiful supply of food and medicines.

The annual economic output of the world’s oceans has reached US$2 trillion. With land-based resources being depleted daily, there has been a global surge toward “ocean enclosure” activities and land reclamation projects that seek to expand the exclusive maritime territory of countries. This has led to unending conflict, with the South China Sea disputes being an obvious example, the importance of which cannot be underestimated.

The WWF estimates the value of the global maritime economy to be about US$2.5 trillion and that on average it grows by 11 percent each year. It predicted that by 2020 the annual value of the world’s maritime economy would exceed US$3 trillion. Furthermore, 61 percent of current global economic output is closely connected to seas, oceans and coastal areas.

Developed economies have consequently been focusing development of the maritime economy according to their own unique characteristics. For example, the Japanese government has focused on development of four main areas: ports and commercial shipping; coastal tourism; fisheries; and offshore oil, which account for 70 percent of the economic output of Japan’s maritime industry.

The US’ maritime economy is valued at US$258 billion, the equivalent of about 4.4 percent of its GDP, which surpasses its agricultural sector. In the US, development is focused on mineral extraction, tourism and sea-based transport.

China in recent years has been actively expanding its maritime economy, which in 2013 was valued at over 5.4 trillion yuan (US$869.8 billion), or 10 percent of its GDP.

What has Taiwan been doing regarding the development of its own maritime economy? Taiwan lacks a comprehensive and sustained set of basic information on its maritime economy, including information on the primary, secondary and tertiary levels of the fishing industry and its associated net worth.

The nation has also failed to establish a maritime economy production chain and industry database, which could be used for academic study and policy reference. In addition, the government has yet to identify any specific areas of the maritime industry for development.

Taiwan has not even managed to integrate the most important scientific research: The government has not even stated which organization is to be responsible for taking the lead in this area. Furthermore, responsibility for the areas of fisheries conservation and fisheries subsidies is spread across different governmental departments and is not properly integrated.

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