It has been nearly two years since the EU placed Taiwan on its “yellow card” warning list in October 2015 for insufficient cooperation in combating illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
Although the government promptly amended the Act for Distant Water Fisheries (遠洋漁業條例), the Act 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 Fisheries Act (漁業法), and in April sent a delegation led by Council of Agriculture officials to the EU headquarters in Brussels to explain these actions, Taiwan is still on the list.
EU officials are set to visit Taiwan again in October to evaluate the situation, but Taiwanese officials are not sure whether the EU is to rescind the label.
By comparison, it took a year and a half for South Korea and the Philippines to be removed.
There is obviously still room for improvement in Taiwan’s administrative efficiency, but the government seems to believe that it has made tremendous improvement.
It has drastically raised the fine for illegal fishing to between NT$1 million and NT$4 million (US$32,973 and US$131,891) — much higher than the previous fine of NT$30,000 to NT$50,000 — while the Fisheries Agency established a 24-hour year-round monitoring center to improve fishery management and combat IUU fishing more effectively.
However, the nation’s continued place on the list shows that more needs to be done.
One of the main reasons it has not been removed is that the EU needs to observe the effectiveness of these measures to determine whether they are permanent or temporary.
In terms of law enforcement, the EU is not only listening to what the authorities are saying, but also watching what they are doing.
This is a result of the authorities’ lax management, as they have long released many illegal fishing operators with minor fines with the excuse that they are taking care of hard-working fishermen.
One such case serves as a reminder to the government.
Late last month, Indonesian Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti said that seven Taiwanese fishing boats had been seen fishing illegally in the waters around the nation’s Biak Island.
However, the Fisheries Agency said in a press release that Indonesia’s claim was not true and that none of the fishing vessels had entered Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone, according to Taiwanese monitoring system data.
It also said it would file a protest to the Indonesian government through diplomatic channels.
The data were provided by the agency’s fishery monitoring center, which claims that its tracking system can monitor the operations of both deep-sea and offshore fishing boats, and can warn them or report violations to the authorities if they enter dangerous waters or operate illegally.
Indonesia said it obtained the information from Global Fishing Watch.
If the Indonesian information is false, Taiwan should demand a public apology, but if the Taiwanese information is incorrect, the case would leave a negative impression on the international community, including the EU.
Since this might affect the timing of Taiwan’s removal from the yellow card list, the agencies should handle the matter with caution.
Humane treatment of foreign fishermen is another focal point of the EU’s observations.
The amended Act for Distant Water Fisheries states that the government will draft rules on the permission and administration of the overseas employment of foreign fishing crew members to ensure adequate wages and break time.
However, the act’s implementation has yet to produce any results.
How is Taiwan going to protect foreign fishermen’s human and labor rights and determine penalties? All of these issues will be key points for EU observers.
The development of a nation’s fishing industry should not be built on the blood, sweat and hard work of its fishermen, and in particular, Taiwan’s outstanding achievements in distant water fishing should never depend on IUU fishing.
The EU’s yellow card has given the nation an opportunity to thoroughly review and improve the situation.
Managing the nation’s fishing boats is the government’s responsibility and complying with international fishing regulations is every fisherman’s responsibility — it is not something that should be done just for international observers.
Lee Wu-chung is an adjunct university professor.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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