Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) is reportedly to soon propose a policy of “paying respect to the sea.” It is good to know that the highest levels of government attach such importance to marine issues.
Taiwan’s has about 1,700km of coastline and about 13,000km2 of coastal land.
Many years of economic development and relaxation of marine regulations have allowed maritime resources to be used in a diverse number of ways, such as for seawalls, national defense, conservation, energy resources, fisheries, transport and recreation.
Some of these uses are mutually conflicting and some did not consider the characteristics of coastal land and resources. This has led to undesirable results, such as competitive, excessive or improper use of those resources.
Problems such as the excessive proportion of artificial coastline, coastal erosion, subsidence, damage to geological landscapes and marine pollution all result from the improper use of marine resources.
The Coastal Zone Management Act (海岸管理法), which was drawn up by the Ministry of the Interior in 2015, has established a management regime for the protection, defense and usage of coastal zones. It serves to effectively resolve conflicts between different users, mitigate effects on the coastal environment and reduce the risk of coastal disasters.
The national spatial plan goes a step further by including waters extending 12 nautical miles (22.2km) from the average high-tide line within the marine resources zone and establishing a regime for the subsequent use of this zone.
The Construction and Planning Agency deserves praise for doing its duty in this respect.
However, marine management is not limited to territorial space. It also includes the use and protection of marine resources, the development of marine industries, maritime safety, safety of marine recreation, prevention of marine pollution, preservation of marine culture and marine education, and so on.
There is an urgent need for the government to systematically establish management regimes governing all these diverse aspects.
The Ocean Affairs Council is duty bound to play the main part in this process. Although the council was established a year-and-a-half ago, hopefully it will go on to exert more energetic governance over the sea and integrate the establishment of Taiwan’s marine management regime.
In 2008, the EU adopted its Marine Strategy Framework Directive, which regards the sea as an important economic asset and pursues the goal of ensuring that Europe’s seas are clean, healthy and productive.
Considering that Taiwan calls itself a maritime nation, it should have the same boldness of vision. The real way to respect the sea is to treat it as an important national asset and establish a management regime to sustainably utilize and protect it.
Chen Chung-ling is a professor in National Cheng Kung University’s Institute of Ocean Technology and Marine Affairs.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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