During a recent visit to Okuma Center in Taichung’s Tanzi District (潭子), President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said that although Taiwan is surrounded by water, most people have no fishing experience, so she suggested that there should be a review of the pertinent policies.
The president highlighted the fact that the public has for a long time lacked interaction with the ocean, and pointed to the government’s neglect in developing its potential.
How many people engage in deep-sea fishing, and in which areas can people who are interested in deep-sea fishing as a hobby practice it?
What about the development and production capabilities of Taiwan’s fishing gear industry and peripheral industries?
How many people go out on boats for deep-sea fishing every year, and what is the output value they bring to the local area? Does the government maintain any official catch statistics?
All of these questions make it clear that Taiwan’s deep-sea fishing industry has not yet begun developing.
In response to the demands of the recreational fishing population, the Cabinet recently created 50 fishing areas in fishing ports and commercial ports, and put the Ocean Affairs Council in charge of overseeing leisure fishing activities.
The council has since then only proposed a legally nonbinding draft proposal that has a friendly approach to fishing endeavors and an online system for reporting fishing activities.
However, these actions do nothing to facilitate the development of the deep-sea fishing industry, nor do they do anything to develop deep-sea fishing areas away from designated fishing or commercial ports, or to implement any kind of resources for managing deep-sea fishing activities or the species of fish caught.
The deep-sea fishing sector has the potential to drive development of fishing gear enterprises and related industries, create employment opportunities and revive the economy in coastal communities.
People could be taught how to interact with the ocean and the environment, and the industry is a way of attracting foreign tourists to Taiwan.
From a market perspective, demand for deep-sea fishing among recreational fishers far outweighs the supply of such activities.
This includes establishing deep-sea fishing areas, a deep-sea fishing management system focused on recreational fishing, deep-sea fishing industry guidance, and introducing ocean environment and safety education.
This is all dependent on the government drawing up a plan for the development of the deep-sea fishing industry.
The council was only established a year ago, and has sometimes been criticized for lacking clearly specified responsibilities, which has made it difficult to point to any specific, concrete policy achievements.
Perhaps the deep-sea fishing industry is the opportunity the council needs: Start developing it.
Chen Chung-ling is a professor in National Cheng Kung University’s Institute of Ocean Technology and Marine Affairs.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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