Sat, Nov 27, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Taiwan penalized after exceeding fishing quota

CRACKING DOWN After the nation's quota for bigeye tuna fishing in the Atlantic was reduced, officials said they would get serious about stopping illegal fishing

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

After being penalized for exceeding its Atlantic bigeye tuna-fishing quota, Taiwan will strictly adhere to international regulations and will cancel licenses issued to boats involved in illegal fishing, the Fisheries Agency said yesterday.

According to Ted Tsai (蔡天享), chief of the International Fisheries Affairs Section under the Fisheries Agency's Deep Sea Fisheries Division, after negotiations between ICCAT members at the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), it was agreed that Taiwan's Atlantic bigeye tuna quota will be reduced by 8,000 tonnes total, spread out over five years from next year to 2009, as compensation for past illegal fishing.

That means that beginning next year, Taiwan's annual quota will be reduced to 14,900 tonnes.

"If Taiwan fails to meet the new regulations next year, it might lose its Co-operating Status at ICCAT, and never be allowed to fish in the Atlantic Ocean again," Tsai told the Taipei Times yesterday.

To prevent illegal fishing, the agency plans to crack down unregistered and unreported boats to prevent illegal fishing.

"We call on Taiwanese fishermen's self-restraint," said the fisheries agency's Deputy Director-General James Sha (沙志一), who just returned from an ICCAT meeting in New Orleans last week. "But if any illegality involving tuna is found, their licenses will be withdrawn immediately."

Sha said that some Taiwanese fishing boats' illegal catching of bigeye tuna in the Atlantic was severely criticized by other members such as Japan and the US, who rely on the same fishing grounds.

Although Taiwan is not a member of ICCAT, it still has a special "cooperating status" with the organization, and is entitled to fish for tuna in the Atlantic, within specified quotas. For example, Taiwan is allowed to catch up to 16,500 tonnes of bigeye tuna in the Atlantic Ocean annually. According to the agency, Taiwan obtains 50,000 tonnes of all types of tuna from the Atlantic Ocean annually, valued at roughly NT$9 billion.

At the annual meeting, Japan accused Taiwan of exceeding its allowable quota by 4,000 tones in the last five years and suggested a reduction in Taiwan's quota. Taiwan annually exports bigeye tuna valued at an estimated NT$3.5 billion to Japan.

Japan also reported two recent illegal cases involving Taiwanese fishermen and estimated, based on those cases, that Taiwan secretly catches about 18,000 tonnes of bigeye tuna each year. In July and September, on two cargo vessels, Japanese customs officers found detailed lists showing that Taiwanese fishermen falsely reported that some of their bigeye tuna was caught in the Indian Ocean rather than its actual source, the Atlantic.

Taiwanese fishery officials said at the meeting Taiwanese delegates admitted to the existence of illegal fishing, but said they estimated it accounted for only 4,000 tonnes annually.

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