Taiwanese distant-water fishing vessels have once again been accused of shark finning and killing vulnerable marine animals, and migrant crew members have complained of frequent physical violence, the UK-based Environmental Justice Foundation said in a report earlier this week.
Following its report about illegal activities on the Fuh Sheng No. 11 (福甡11號) published in September, the foundation on Wednesday released another investigative report about five other fishing vessels flying the Republic of China flag or owned by Taiwanese.
The crew on all five boats have said they were ordered to remove shark fins and throw the rest of the animals overboard, the foundation said, adding that some were also asked to illegally catch dolphins and use their meat as shark bait.
It also released a nine-minute film, titled Slaughter at Sea: Dolphins, Turtles and Sharks: Illegal Fishing on Taiwanese Longliners, featuring interviews with the migrant crew members in Indonesia last month.
They would spear or electrocute dolphins swimming alongside boats, as the animals’ blood attracts sharks, a crew member said in the film.
When they caught a turtle, they usually released it “unless the captain asked for turtle’s tail,” given its purported medicinal effects, a fisher said.
To evade inspections by Taiwanese officials, captains ordered the crew to hide shark fins at the bottom of freezers and cover them with other fish, the foundation said.
Many crew members also reported physical violence and debt bondage, it added.
“These illegal, unsustainable and brutally cruel activities are being enabled by the Taiwanese authorities’ failure to act,” foundation executive director Steve Trent said, urging Taiwan to end the abuses, and create legal, sustainable and ethical fisheries.
Photographs and footage provided by the foundation do not show any specific vessels, and the testimonies of the migrant crew are difficult to confirm, the Fisheries Agency said on Wednesday, but added that it would probe the matter.
Since the Act for Distant Water Fisheries (遠洋漁業條例) took effect last year, the agency has tightened regulation of the industry and issued fines, it said, calling on environmental groups to affirm that most Taiwanese fishers obey the law.
Management of Taiwan’s distant-sea fishing fleets is a thorny issue for the government, as heavy fines for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities have triggered a protest by fishers last month, the largest-ever so far.
Some consider the heavy punishments to be one of the factors that contributed to the Democratic Progressive Party’s losses in the Nov. 24 elections.
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