When a Taiwan humpback dolphin was found dead on the beach in Miaoli County in September, drowned by a fishing net, it sparked a campaign calling on the government to revoke permission for a controversial fishing project in the waters off the west coast.
“[Monday] marked the first day of the International Year of Biodiversity launched by the UN … We have repeatedly appealed against the pair trawling fishing project, but the Fisheries Agency [under the Council of Agriculture] never listened,” said Robin Winkler, founder of the Taiwan Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association.
Winkler, together with other members of an alliance to save the dolphin, a kind of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin listed as a “critically endangered” species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, yesterday filed their petition at the Executive Yuan.
After speaking with Hsiao Hsiu-chin (蕭秀琴), deputy of the fifth division of the Executive Yuan, the activists failed to enlist the Executive Yuan’s support for their petition.
“The Executive Yuan will not intervene in the case as it is within the jurisdiction of the Fisheries Agency to decide whether to cancel its experimental research project. We hope that the Fisheries Agency will hold a public hearing on the issue,” Hsiao said.
Under the project, the agency says it hopes to collect data on the maturity and spawning period of major fish species in the area, as well as the body length and weight of each species.
With this information, it says it can decide when to impose a ban on fishing and set a minimum mesh size for nets.
The project, which began in early September, will last for a year, with 42 high-speed pair trawling fishing vessels operating in waters between 3 nautical miles (5.6km) and 12 nautical miles from the west coast between Taichung and Tainan.
“The pair-trawling fishing activity carried out by two high-speed boats catches almost all marine species as the net is about 500m to 600m in length and 30m to 40m in depth. Humpback dolphins are often caught by accident,” said Pan Han-shen (潘翰聲), spokesman for the Taiwan Green Party.
“If the project was conducted to collect data, the government should allow just one vessel. Permitting the operation of 42 vessels is tantamount to breaking the rule that waters within twelve miles of the coast are off limits to fishing,” Pan said.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) urged the Executive Yuan to override the permission granted by the Fisheries Agency as pair trawling would seriously destroy marine biodiversity.
“Many countries prohibit such activities in coastal waters, including Japan and even China. What kind of country is Taiwan to permit it under the excuse of ‘doing research?’” she said.
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