More than 300 fishermen and environmentalists from across the nation marked Oceans Day yesterday afternoon by staging a rally on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office, asking the government to take effective measures to address the decline in fish stocks.
Under the blazing sun, fishermen held banners with illustrations of mullet, dolphins and tuna as they chanted slogans.
“Fish every year: endless cycle of life and growth in nature” and “We want a ministry of marine affairs,” they chanted.
Western Coast Protection Union secretary-general Tsai Chia-yang (蔡嘉陽) said the fishermen, mostly from central and southern areas, gathered to express the difficulties they are facing amid declining fish stocks.
A fisherman, surnamed Kuo (高), who has been fishing in Greater Tainan’s Anping Harbor (安平港) for decades, said that “fish stocks have dropped a lot, maybe as much by as 90 percent.”
He said there used to be abundant fish resources, such as barracuda, grouper and cuttlefish, just near the coastline, but now it has become difficult to catch fish even out at sea.
“I wish the government would crack down illegal trawling, fish poisoning and the discharge of pollutants,” he said.
Another fisherman, surnamed Chiang (蔣), from Changhua County said the government did not strictly enforce regulations that ban bottom trawling within 3 nautical miles (5.5km) of the coastline, meaning that many juvenile fish are caught before they can mature, causing a decline in fish numbers.
Holding a string of oyster shelves, Chen Pao-kuo (陳寶國), a 77-year-old fisherman from Changhua County’s Wanggong Township (王功), said water pollution in the area has become a serious threat to food safety and fish farming.
“I protest today for the survival of our offspring, because the government — the ‘bandit government’ — has not upheld its responsibility to protect our living standards,” he said.
Wanggong had always been famous for its quality seafood, but industrial pollution has already affected the area, and local fishermen are worried that pollutants from the Central Taiwan Science Park will destroy their fishing industry, Chen said.
The environmental groups and fishermen urged the government to strictly enforce the regulations stipulated in the Fisheries Act (漁業法), punish illegal fishing, establish ocean reserves to maintain sustainable fish populations and re-evaluate the current fishing policies to solve the problem of rapidly declining fish resources.