Fisheries Agency Director-General James Sha (沙志一) yesterday said the recent Taiwan-Japan fishing pact shows how Taiwan and the Philippines could resolve their long-standing dispute over fishing rights in their overlapping exclusive economic zones.
The Taiwan-Japan agreement designates an area in overlapping waters in which fishermen from both sides can operate freely, Sha said.
This could serve as a model for addressing a similar dispute with Manila, which has flared up since a Taiwanese fisherman was shot on May 9, he said in an interview with the Philippine TV network GMA and the Taiwanese media.
A joint patrol of the Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources strafed the Taiwanese fishing boat, the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28, while it was operating in the overlapping exclusive economic zones of the two countries. Hung Shih-cheng (洪石成), 65, was killed in the incident.
Sha said the records from the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28’s voyage data recorder (VDR) showed that it was not trespassing in the Philippines’ territorial waters when the attack occurred.
“The incident took place within the Republic of China’s exclusive economic zone, not in Philippine territorial waters,” he said, denying reports in the Philippine media that the boat had been poaching in Philippine territory.
The patrol that opened fire on the fishing boat did not board the vessel to see if there were any casualties after the shooting, Sha said.
More than 50 bullet holes were found in the boat after it was towed back to Taiwan, he said.
In response to questions from the GMA, Sha displayed a photograph of the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28’s log, which he said proved that the vessel had not entered the Philippines’ territorial waters since it left Pingtung County on May 4.
Asked about the precision of the recording equipment, Sha said the VDR has a 90 percent accuracy to within 7m.
One of the purposes of installing VDRs on Taiwanese fishing boats is to pinpoint their location in the event of fishing disputes, Sha said.
“This would be important evidence for us to determine the location,” he added.
The VDRs are usually sealed once they are installed and are constantly checked by Fisheries Agency officials, Sha said.
If a VDR was found to have been tampered with, the boat owner will be punished, he said.