Taiwan and the Cook Islands have activated a mechanism to help uncover illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities, the Fisheries Agency said yesterday.
The Cook Islands in the South Pacific recently notified the West and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) that it would operate a mutual fishery examination system with Taiwan.
Under the deal, Taiwanese fishing boats operating in WCPFC areas are required to let Cook Islands fishery officials or police — after checking that they are genuine Cook Islands authorities — board and inspect their vessels to help crack down on transboundary IUU fishing, the Fisheries Agency said.
The Cook Islands is the second country after New Zealand to sign such a mutual fishery examination agreement with Taiwan. Taiwan and New Zealand inked their agreement late last month.
About 1,500 Taiwanese commercial fishing boats operate in the western and central parts of the Pacific Ocean, mainly to catch tuna, sharks and sailfish.
Of the total, 100 smaller longline fishing vessels, mainly used to catch tuna, that operate in open seas or in other economic zones under contract from those countries are the most likely to be targeted for inspection, the agency said.
Taiwanese vessels that don't cooperate with the inspections or are found to have violated regulations may be banned from fishing commercially in those areas, an agency official said.
The official urged Taiwanese vessels to have their documents and fishing logbooks ready for inspection. They should also be properly equipped with fish-measuring and other monitoring equipment to help them avoid catching protected sea turtles or birds, or amassing younger fish that they are not allowed to catch.
The Taiwan-New Zealand mutual fishery examination mechanism marked the first time that Taiwan had participated in such inspection efforts, which are aimed at maximizing long-term benefits from west and central Pacific fishing grounds.
IUU catches can bring in up to US$9.5 billion, a World Commission on Protected Areas' High Seas Task Force study found.
Up to 30 percent of IUU fishing occurs beyond national jurisdiction, where there are fewer controls, the study said.
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