Overfishing of tuna by Taiwanese fishermen in distant waters is contributing to the rapid exhaustion of ocean resources, Greenpeace said in a report yesterday, calling for a review of Taiwan’s policy on deepwater fishing and fishing subsidies to ensure sustainability.
Taiwan Greenpeace oceans campaigner Kao Yu-fen (高于棻) said the west central Pacific was the largest tuna fishery in the world, supporting 60 percent of all the tuna consumed globally and that Taiwan was the largest tuna fishing country in that area, with 1,983 registered vessels accounting for 30 percent of total vessels.
In its report, Greenpeace said that while three of the four kinds of tuna caught in the area were listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, the Fisheries Agency continued to subsidize deepwater fishing with funds for items such as fuel.
The agency spent about NT$11.7 billion (US$403.1 million) from 2002 through last year, with about 75 percent earmarked for deepwater fishing, while less than 2 percent was used for fishing resources management, Kao said.
Greenpeace questioned the contradiction between the government’s sustainable fishing policies and their enforcement, which seemed to encourage overfishing.
The non-governmental organization urged countries in the west-central Pacific to collaborate and reduce tuna fishing by 50 percent, to prohibit the use of seine fishing methods and set up marine reserves.
In addition, Greenpeace said it hoped to engage in detailed dialogue with the Council of Agricultural Affairs, which oversees the agency, on the subject.
Responding to the report, Fisheries Agency Deputy -Director--General Tsay Tzu-Yaw (蔡日耀) said Greenpeace had misinterpreted the expenses data.
He said the 75 percent of expenses on “increasing distant water fish production” was in reality not all used to exploit the sea, but instead included reducing the number of vessels, to buy out vessels and impose hiatuses on fishing activities.
Tsay said the agency had to strike a balance between conservation, reasonable use of ocean resources and the income of Taiwanese fishermen.
Vessels that are retired or bought out by the government are destroyed and used as artificial reefs, Tsay said, adding that the agency only subsidized fishermen with Republic of China citizenship and that there were more than 50 observers on duty making sure regulations are followed.
Tsay said Taiwan had carried out the largest reduction in capacity among all countries operating in the west-central Pacific and that the agency had always regulated the tuna industry based on rules set by the regional fisheries commission.
In addition, Tsay said the agency was open to public discussion on fishing conditions and policies.