At least 50 Taiwanese fishing boats are expected to approach the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) in the East China Sea in the coming days to protest what the fishermen called Japan’s “illegal” occupation of the island group and harassment of fishermen around the islands.
Chen Chun-sheng (陳君聖), president of the Suao Fishermen’s Association in Yilan County, said yesterday that since next month marks the start of a peak fishing season, the protest trip will have to be made by the end of this month at the latest.
Boats from other northern Taiwanese ports will also join the protest, Chen said.
“Our goal is to mobilize more than 100 fishing boats to gather in the waters around the Diaoyutai Islands,” Chen said.
He said the plan is for the participating vessels to circle the waters 12 nautical miles (22.2km) off the island group, which is administered by Japan, but also claimed by Taiwan and China.
He also did not rule out the possibility that the boats would try to penetrate the defenses of Japanese patrol boats and land on the islets to raise the Republic of China flag and the flag of the fishermen’s association in a show of protest.
He said that an organizational committee on protecting fishing rights around the Diayoutai Islands was formed after the Japanese government’s purchase earlier this month of three of the islands — called the Senkaku Islands in Japan — to “nationalize” the island group.
It is estimated that the fishermen taking part in the protest will need at least NT$5 million (US$170,000) in fuel for their protest.
The association will shoulder NT$1.4 million of the cost, but members of committee will have to solicit donations to make up the shortfall. The waters around the island group are claimed as traditional fishing grounds by Taiwanese fishermen, but they are often harassed and chased away by Japanese patrol boats.