If the grouper industry will need at least three years to get back on its feet, could international competitors take over the market in that interval?
Cheng said China’s Guangdong and Hainan provinces have a grouper industry, and that their techniques for farming orange spotted grouper are as advanced as Taiwan’s.
However, Taiwan is still ahead when it comes to giant grouper because the technological threshold to enter giant grouper farming is higher, he said.
Du Yu (杜宇), chief executive officer of the Chen-Li Task Force for Agricultural Reform, said that Vietnam, China and Indonesia, who see Taiwan as a competitor, would take advantage of the opportunity to get ahead in the grouper market.
Meanwhile, the Morakot disaster raised an old debate about registration for fish farms.
There are 550 fish farmers in Linbian, but only 20 are registered.
Less than 4 percent of the cultivation is legal.
Of the 800 fish farmers in Jiadong Township, only 300 are registered.
The FIS has broken with precedent to allow unregistered farmers to receive 50 percent of cash subsidies for those who lost fish stocks in the typhoon.
According to statistics, only 60 percent, or about 18,000 of Taiwan’s 30,000 fish farmers, are registered and operating legally.
Gwo Jin-chywan (郭金泉), another professor in the Department of Aquaculture at NTOU, said the matter of registration was an economic, political and electoral issue that is difficult to resolve.
Du said this was a reality that the fishing industry did not want to face.
The government should take a pragmatic look at whether illegal fish farmers should be part of the reconstruction process or whether their operations should stop.
This issue should not be decided from the perspective of the fishing industry, he said. The public’s interests and land conservation must be prioritized above a small minority of farmers, he said.
Du said the aquaculture industry could continue to develop, but environmental concerns must be taken into consideration. Development must take sustainability into account, he said.
To be able to recover Taiwan’s position as king of the grouper industry, leading grouper cultivator Tai Kun-tsai (戴昆財) said the government — in addition to providing low-interest loans to aquaculture farmers — should subsidize purchases of new fish stocks and set up seawater pumping stations.
This is the only way to improve cultivation efficiency and give the aquaculture industry the help it needs, Tai said.
Tai said the Morakot floods had hurt the aquaculture industry in general and the grouper industry in particular.
Citing the cultivation of giant grouper as an example, Tai said it would take one year to grow a 1.2kg fish, two years for a fish to reach a weight of 9kg, and three years for it to grow to between 12kg and 24 kg.
In addition to providing capital, Tai said, the government must strengthen other efforts to prevent disease from striking fish stocks.
Tai said when it comes to disease prevention, the government should give aquaculture farmers access to expert opinions and academic studies.
Providing seawater pumping stations to allow for the use of clean, high-quality seawater would also improve yield rates at grouper farms, minimize costs for the farmers and improve their international competitiveness, Tai said.