The Fisheries Agency yesterday denied accusations that Taiwan is complicit in overfishing in the western and central Pacific Ocean, saying the building of fishing vessels is strictly controlled by the government and that all newly built fishing vessels are replacements of old boats.
On Friday in Greater Kaohsiung, Greenpeace environmentalists unfurled a large banner that read “Overfishing starts here” in English and “No fish in the ocean, still building more boats” in Chinese, at one of the nation’s largest shipyards.
The group alleged that the Taiwanese government is undermining international fishing agreements and allowing more efficient fishing boats to be built.
Greenpeace said the agency agreed in 2008 to follow the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission’s (WCPFC) advice to limit the number of fishing days for its purse-seine tuna fleets in an effort to help Pacific tuna stocks recover from overfishing. However, it still allows the shipbuilding industry to build bigger ships with larger storage capacity, Greenpeace said.
It said the agency approved 22 new big purse seine ships between 2007 and this year, accumulating a total tonnage of 38,988 tonnes worth of new purse seines boats in five years — five times greater than the the tonnage of Japan, 14 times that of China and 38 times that of South Korea.
The group urged responsible fishery management to end overfishing and to support a global network of marine reserves covering 40 percent of the world’s oceans.
The agency said all shipbuilding operations have been regulated by the government since 1988, and according to the Regulations for the Issuing of Fishing Vessel Building Permit and Fishery License, the right to build a vessel is only granted when an old boat is replaced with a new one of the same tonnage.
The number of purse seiners in Taiwan remains at the level of 34, while about 200 large long line fishing boats of more than 100 tonnages were retired from service between 2005 and 2008, according to the agency’s data.