Protecting fishery resources
For people growing up in New Taipei City’s Jioufen (九份) and Jinguashih (金瓜石) areas, the main source of nutrition is fish and fishery products brought by the Kuroshio Current to the waters off the northeastern coast. Among the catch, squid — the Uroteuthis chinensis species, in particular — is a delicious bargain.
Early last month, I was very surprised to learn that about three-quarters of all squid has disappeared over the past 20 years.
Now, just a month later, Responsible Fisheries Index founder Hsu Cheng-yu (徐承堉) has launched a petition urging the Fisheries Agency to halt plans to export belt fish, also known as largehead hairtail, to China.
It suddenly became clear to me that the fishmonger who visits our community has been fooling us by saying that all freshly caught belt fish is bought up by seafood restaurants, when in fact they have been increasingly exported to China — from 36 tonnes in 2015 to 6,525 tonnes in 2017 and then 13,720 tonnes last year, jumping 381 times from the volume in 2015.
Even worse, the fish is sold in China at only 36 percent of the price here in Taiwan. This essentially amounts to depleting Taiwan’s fishery resources to feed the Chinese.
On July 24, the Council of Agriculture promulgated trial period management regulations for fishing boats carrying inshore and coastal belt fish. These regulations will greatly reduce the shipping cost for belt fish and create a further market edge.
However, the government failed to set an upper limit on the allowed catch and to introduce a procedure to manage the overall catch.
The regulations also lacked an environmental evaluation, nor did it take into account the overall social interest.
The trial program would increase fishermen’s short-term profits, but it would also lead to the exhaustion of Taiwan’s fishing resources in the long term.
Fortunately, following a plea from academic circles, the council on Aug. 5 said that it would introduce controls for total catch and prioritize domestic sales, and that plans would not be finalized before they have been thoroughly discussed with business and academic circles.
The agency’s prompt reaction should be lauded, as should its concern for marine resources and sustainable operations that prioritize Taiwanese welfare.
In addition, the government must take a firm stand on never bringing harm to the nation’s fishery resources for the purpose of satisfying the ravenous appetite of the Chinese.
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