Working together on sustainable fishing

By Yen Ning 顏寧  / 

Thu, Nov 21, 2013 - Page 8

Consumers are not the only ones who worry over the use of antibiotics in the breeding of Taiwanese tilapia and traces of mercury in deep sea fish; the Fisheries Agency is racking its brain over the same issues.

Last week, Greenpeace Taiwan published a report titled Sashimi war out of control, which says that illegal operators and overfishing are rife in the tuna industry. This is yet another issue that the agency must pay attention to.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a global problem that requires every country to help resolve it through policy, supplier management and informing consumer markets.

Over the past three years, Greenpeace in the UK, Italy, the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia has lobbied supermarkets and retailers to change their purchasing policies and pledge to supply aquatic products that comply with sustainability principles.

Greenpeace Taiwan’s report focuses on sashimi and tuna longline fishing and says that stakeholders should work together to deal with resource depletion and promote a sustainable tuna industry.

South Korea, like Taiwan, is a major player in the offshore fishing industry. When a South Korean fishing vessel was found engaging in illegal fishing off the coast of West Africa two years ago, it was denied port entry in all western African states. The US and the EU declared that they would treat South Korea as an IUU nation and ban imports of South Korean fish and other aquatic products.

The South Korean government took this very seriously. It set up a cross-ministerial task force and engaged with Greenpeace’s office in Seoul and with fishing industry operators to discuss feasible solutions, and in July, legislation was passed that allows raids against illegal operators. There is much that Taiwan could learn from this.

Tuna fish is highly economically valuable and provides 90 percent of the production value in Taiwan’s offshore fishing industry and accounts for a large part of fisheries exports.

The global fishing fleet is continuously expanding, but catch volumes are not showing any marked increase. This is a sign that resources are being depleted and that regional fishery organizations can no longer ignore the issue of fishing capacity control.

The Fisheries Agency, which represented Taiwan at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting in 2005, supports a ban on new fishing boats, and it has in recent years promoted a policy to manage the fishing of shark and require that sharks are landed with their fins attached to their bodies. This has prompted Australia, New Zealand and other countries to cite Taiwan as an example when discussing shark fishing controls.

The agency is moving in the right direction, but it could do even better. If Taiwan wants to become a pioneer for sustainable fishing practices in Asia, it should show further strength and resolution by supporting sustainable development at the WCPFC meeting next month, cooperating and communicating actively with the international community, increasing the penalties for illegal operators and protecting the rights and interests of legal operators.

Yen Ning is an oceans campaigner with Greenpeace.

Translated by Perry Svensson