The government has sought help from Palau to verify a Greenpeace report that a Taiwanese vessel had been caught fishing illegally in the Pacific island nation’s shark sanctuary, Fisheries Agency Director-General Sha Chih-yi (沙志一) said.
Sha made the remarks in the wake of a report released by Greenpeace on Friday that Palauan fisheries officials had boarded and detained fishing vessel Sheng Chi Hui No. 7 on suspicion of conducting illegal fishing during a joint patrol with Greenpeace of the country’s exclusive economic zone.
The report said a Greenpeace helicopter spotted sharks and fins on board the Sheng Chi Hui on Thursday while the fishing vessel was inside Palau’s shark sanctuary, which it set up in 2009 to help protect more than 130 endangered Pacific shark species from extinction. The sanctuary covers an area that extends up to 322km from the coastline of Palau, one of Taiwan’s 23 diplomatic allies.
Although the Taiwanese crew denied breaching any fishing regulations, the report said, the vessel is being escorted by the Greenpeace ship Esperanza and a Palauan patrol boat to a port in Palau for further investigation.
“This case will damage Taiwan’s international reputation,” Taiwan Greenpeace oceans campaigner Kao Yu-fen (高于棻) said. “If the Fisheries Agency doesn’t take action to review the effects of its regulations and conservation policy execution, then Taiwan’s distant water fishing operations will be affected, and sustainable fishing will become an empty slogan.”
Responding to the report, Sha said the government tends to respect information released by major international environmental protection organizations such as Greenpeace.
“However, in this case, we still need to get more information through the Palauan government to verify relevant reports,” Sha said.
If the Sheng Chi Hui was proven to have committed illegal shark finning, it would not only be fined by the Palauan government, but would also be punished by the agency, Sha said, adding that in accordance with the Regional Fisheries Management Organizations’ resolutions on shark conservation and management, the agency has prohibited catching certain species of sharks and requires that the fin-to-whole-body weight ratio of offloaded sharks does not exceed 5 percent.