Hundreds of fishermen took to the waters near a military base in Pingtung County on Wednesday in a protest against drills that they say are depleting marine resources in the area.
Henchun District (恆春) Fishermen’s Association chairman Pan Ming-kun (潘明坤) and fishermen on 30 rubber rafts took to the water near Jiupeng Base, a missile testing range.
The protest came as Navy Command Headquarters started 10 days of drills at the base, which include launching projectiles into the sea.
“We will save our fishing area,” the fishermen shouted, taking a now popular protest phrase as their own.
The protesters said the years of military drills in their fishing areas have depleted their hauls.
They set flags on target buoys 8 nautical miles (15km) offshore that read: “Defend fisheries [resources] to the death.”
They added that they would put themselves in the way of any missiles fired.
Another 100 fishermen, led by association secretary-general Chung Yu-fang (鍾玉芳), set up temporary structures near a firing location and vowed to remain there for the long haul.
“No more missile firing, save fishermen’s livelihoods,” Chung told military officials.
A protester surnamed Huang said that since the military began test firing in the area years ago, hauls have been reduced by half.
Liu Jui-hung (劉睿宏), who is in charge of the base, said the military pays NT$10 million (US$333,000) to the nearby townships of Mudan (牡丹) and Manzhou (滿州) each year.
The fund disbursement follows a set order of procedures, he said, urging the fishermen to file any requests for reimbursement with township administrators.
He also promised to convey their concerns over damage to fishing areas, while urging them to maintain a rational and peaceful protest and let the military complete its drills.
However, many of the protesters found Liu’s response unacceptable, and said yesterday they would mobilize more residents from nearby towns to increase the scale of their protest.
Jiupeng Base is the major center for military missile tests. It conducts more than 30 live missile firings on average each year.