During an inspection tour of the Taichung Gangbei Jetty Model Sea Fishing Zone earlier this month, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) boasted that she is Taiwan’s most fisher-friendly president. The model sea fishing zone is a first for the nation, and has been heavily promoted and funded behind the scenes by Taiwan International Ports Corp.
Taiwan’s natural and artificial coastline stretches 1,900km and is home to countless fishing spots. However, the Fishing Port Act (漁港法) and the Commercial Port Law (商港法), with few exceptions, basically prohibit fishing within ports and harbors, so anglers are unable to fish on or around harbor jetty walls or are forced to do so illegally by evading coast guard or harbor police patrols.
This problem was highlighted in March when a dispute between anglers and commercial fishers forced the government to take notice.
The Executive Yuan set the scene for the kerfuffle, having pursued a policy of opening up discrete areas within sea ports and commercial harbors to anglers, so long as the locations do not impact upon operations and also satisfy the requirements of fishers. There are 50 such private fishing areas within ports and commercial harbors across the nation.
To comply with the Executive Yuan’s policy, Taiwan International Ports opened up a section of the Gangbei jetty to anglers, and has invested financial and human resources to upgrade the area, including repaving the jetty, installing safety infrastructure, shipping containers, portable toilets and electromechanical equipment for the convenience of anglers. It also arranged for periodic cleaning and management of drift sand within the area.
Also, in a first for the company, a high-quality fishing organization was selected to manage and operate the facilities through an open competition. Taiwan International Ports deserves praise for taking its corporate social responsibility seriously.
Many aspects of the jetty zone, including weather regulations, safety infrastructure, insurance, fees, pedestrian and vehicle management, and environmental cleanup, can be used as a template for the opening up of other sea ports and commercial harbors to anglers.
However, Taiwan International Ports is not in the fishing management business and the jetties of commercial ports have a specific function other than as platforms for anglers.
It would perhaps be better then to explore whether there are other areas of the coastline, away from commercial ports, which might be better suited to private fishing.
Moreover, since the essence of fishing is about interacting with marine life, with interest in sea fishing on the increase and anglers demanding access to more fishing areas, the government must ensure offshore fishing develops in a sustainable way. This will require legislation.
New laws are required so that regulations are in place to establish an organization to manage recreational fishing. Such an organization would be able to promote fishing-related businesses and would have the authority to establish recreational fishing zones.
It would also be able to regulate and promote development of a recreational sea fishing industry so that it can become an important part of the nation’s “blue economy.”
Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) has proposed introducing a policy of “paying respect to the sea.” Enacting a sea fishing law would be an excellent start.
Chen Chung-ling is a professor in National Cheng Kung University’s Institute of Ocean Technology and Marine Affairs.
Translated by Edward Jones
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