In October last year, the EU issued Taiwan a “yellow card” for being uncooperative in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
The warning has attracted a great deal of attention. In the past, South Korea and Thailand have received yellow cards, which in Thailand’s case also included a warning over exploitation of fishermen. The governments of these nations worked hard to avoid trade sanctions. Taiwanese authorities must have understood that their approach could serve as an important reference when it tries to respond to the crisis.
To avoid being issued a red card, Taiwanese authorities have adopted a series of measures, such as completing a registration of Taiwan’s deep sea fishing fleet; installing a reporting system on fishing boats (about 20 percent of boats under 100 tonnes still do not have this system); and increasing the fine for illegal fishing to NT$30 million (US$927,414) and NT$45 million for repeated offenses.
The authorities are to inspect deep sea fishing boats in every port, or wherever the catch is unloaded, and cooperate with authorities in other nations conducting inspections.
The measures have drawn reactions from fishermen and observers are paying close attention to whether the three fishery laws — the draft deep sea fisheries act, the amendment to the Ordinance to Govern Investment in the Operation of Foreign Flag Fishing Vessels (投資經營非我國籍漁船管理條例) and the amendment to the Fisheries Act (漁業法) — would pass legislative review. Legislators must pay attention to avoid a situation where a minority can violate the law and make exorbitant profits while the majority who obey the law suffer.
As an important member of the international fishing industry, Taiwan should adhere to international laws and regulations. However, the legal amendments proposed by the government to solve the crisis are mostly passive responses to the EU’s demands, while other nations and fishery conservation organizations place greater importance on the government’s efficient and continuous enforcement of the law. That the government and the media were up in arms over this issue for about five minutes before lapsing back into their normal state makes it clear that achieving this would not be easy.
Taiwan has a “say-one-thing-do-another” approach to policy implementation. For instance, although Taiwan was the first Asian nation to implement measures to prevent shark finning, the practice has not diminished.
However, the distrust and criticism that Greenpeace International has directed at Taiwan’s fishery authorities proves the negative effect this issue has had on the nation’s international image. The EU’s warning, which is destroying the false impression of Taiwan as a model member of the international community, is directly related to the string of attacks that Greenpeace has directed at Taiwan for its illegal fishery activities.
Government officials must no longer continue to deceive themselves; they should start communicating and listening to other opinions.
President-elect Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who says that her government would be communicative, should start by requiring that her government is open and transparent so that it can be monitored by the public. Hopefully, the incoming government would also get rid of the stale organizational structure and reform its human resources management instead of continuing to reward people who have been loyal.
Tsai said that ocean development would be one of the focal points of her government.
However, it is not clear how the Taiwanese fishing industry, within a global regulatory framework, woul be able to achieve sustainable development, and meet short, medium and long-term policy goals.
Taiwan does not have rules that regulate the number of fishing boats or the training of fishermen, nor does it have regulations that set salaries and guarantee labor rights for fishermen, create sustainable fishery management mechanisms or manage the distribution of fishery resources.
Instead, the focus has always been on solving short term issues — an approach that still applies in the case of the EU warning — while problems such as legal violations and monopolization of resources have been ignored based on the illusion that Taiwan is the world’s biggest fishing nation.
This is the reason Taiwan’s fishing industry is at risk of being targeted with sanctions. It is a shame for Taiwan and the officials that have been in charge of distributing fishing resources should take responsibility.
Du Yu is chief executive officer of the Chen-Li Task Force for Agricultural Reform.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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