Fri, Feb 09, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Government moves to regulate smaller tuna fishing vessels

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Sashimi made from freshly caught Pacific Ocean blue-finned tuna is a succulent treat that almost melts in the mouth.

However, overfishing is having a harmful impact on tuna and other fish populations and Taiwan must work with other nations around the globe to preserve the stock for future generations, fisheries agency officials said yesterday.

"There might not be any tuna for our children to enjoy if we don't act now," said James Sha (沙志一), deputy director-general of the Council of Agriculture's fisheries agency.

Working to guidelines from various international fishing stock regulatory bodies, the agency has been mandating the installation of vessel monitoring systems (VMS) on smaller and smaller fishing boats.

All Taiwanese vessels over 90 tonnes are currently fitted with the tracking devices, which monitor the vessel's movements, the amount of fish caught and even the types of hooks being used.

"Within three years we hope to fit all vessels above 18 tonnes with VMS," said Sha at a public hearing convened by Keelung Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Hsu Shao-ping (徐少萍).

Notorious

Taiwan is notorious internationally for its fleets of small fishing vessels that scour the world's oceans in search of a catch, he said.

"We fish the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean ... all in tiny seafaring vessels. No other country in the world does this," said Sha, "this is why there is enormous pressure for us to regulate our smaller vessels."

Fishermen's groups, however, complained about the agency's plans.

"Times are hard enough for those of us who fish for a living," said Oung Chin-shou (翁進壽) of the Kaohsiung Fishermen's Association.

Oung said he would like the government to foot the bill for the tracking devices, which would cost around NT$50,000 to install and NT$10,000 to NT$20,000 to maintain. There are already subsidies in place to encourage fishermen to install the devices sooner rather than later.

"A big head of [bluefin] tuna can fetch more than a NT$1 million at a fish market," said Sha, "You tell me if the cost of the devices are an unreasonable burden."

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