The Taiwanese government failed to push for sustainable fishing at the recently concluded Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commissions’ meeting, the local branch of Greenpeace East Asia said yesterday.
As one of the world’s major fishing powers, Taiwan did not exercise as much influence as it should have to block new measures that could destroy fish populations, the group said.
According to Greenpeace, instead of stepping up efforts to protect marine life, the meeting, which was held in Guam from Monday to Friday last week, unraveled existing measures to preserve the region’s fisheries resources by reopening certain high-seas fishing grounds to destructive fishing methods.
Although Taiwan voted against the initiative, which was mainly pushed through by South Korea and the US, its reluctance to come up with a rescue plan showed its weakness on the issue, Greenpeace said.
Disappointed by the meeting’s decisions, Greenpeace East Asia senior ocean campaigner Kao Yu-fen (高于棻),who attended the meeting this year as an observer, said: “Due to the short-term economic considerations of a few members, the decision was a major setback in ocean conservation, sounding a death knell for fish resources in the area.”
“As the member owning the most fishing vessels in the area, Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency should take a leading role to actively guide the commission toward applying sustainable methods, instead of passively waiting for the decisions,” she said.
Greenpeace said Taiwan has more than 1,600 fishing vessels in the Western and Central Pacific, while a large proportion of Taiwan’s long-distance fish production comes from tuna.
Taiwan Greenpeace oceans campaigner Yen Ning (顏寧) said seine fishing had been banned in two high-seas pockets that were closed in 2008, while the use of fish aggregating devices was limited to less than three months per year, to allow tuna populations in the area to recover to the same level as 2004.
Reopening these areas will likely cause further fish depletion, she said.
The Fisheries Agency, which represented Taiwan at the meeting, disagreed, describing the meeting’s results as constructive.
“We don’t see it as a partial reopening of the Pacific Commons. It’s more about different methods of fishing management,” said Lin Ding-rong (S), deputy director of the agency’s Deep Sea Fisheries Division.