Tue, Jun 03, 2008 - Page 2 News List

Fishermen face dire straits

By Huang Shu-lei, Lee Li-fa, Liu Yu-ching,Hong Chen-hong and Chi  /  STAFF REPORTERS

As a result of increased costs, half of the nation’s long-distance fishing boats are now inactive and many fishermen have said that with no peak in oil prices in sight, they were preparing for the worst-case scenario, which would be the cessation of operations altogether.

Fuel contributes to more than half of a fishing boat’s operational cost, Taiwan Tuna Association chairman Huang Chao-ching (黃昭欽) said, adding that a 600 tonne boat consumes more than NT$73,000 in gasoline per day — more than payments on ship, bait and employee compensation combined.

At such rates, it is cheaper for owners to leave their ships in port than pay the NT$2 million-plus (US$66,000) they would spend on fuel for each trip, which typically runs for 20 to 30 days, Huang said.

In recent days, the nation’s major seaports have been crammed with long-journey fishing boats returned from the Pacific Ocean. Estimates made by Long-shun Fishing Company president Wang Shun-long (王順隆) showed that half of the nation’s long-distance fleet was now idle.

Rising oil prices and increasingly strict international fishing restrictions have meant that the nation’s fishing industry faces a serious risk of total fadeout, Wang said.

Pingtung County’s Liouciou Township (琉球) fishing association chief Tsai Pao-shing (蔡寶興) said that diesel prices had risen from NT$3,552 to NT$4,247 per 200 liters, which added more than NT$200,000 to every trip.

Penghu County had as many as 3,600 fishing ships in its prime, but now it has less than 2,200 ships and many have been put up for sale. Ilan County’s Nanfangao (南方澳) port, has experienced a similar decline, from 1,400 ships to less than 1,000.

Although the government introduced a fishing suspension subsidy six years ago, few fishermen had applied for the grant until about two years ago. Ships that sail for more than 90 days and dock for more than 120 days qualify for the subsidy.

Despite the annual subsidy of NT$13,000 to NT$100,000 per ship, many have opted to suspend their activities.

The agency said it expected 8,000 ships to stay in port this year.

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