Wed, Aug 19, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Yunlin commissioner pleads oyster farmers’ case

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

Yunlin County Commissioner Lee Chin-yung (李進勇) yesterday called on the central government to establish a special relief program for oyster farmers who suffered losses because of Typhoon Soudelor and to return fishing rights along the county’s coastline to local residents.

Only about 20 percent of the oyster farmers in the typhoon-ravaged county are eligible for disaster relief because the rest do not hold fishery rights along coastal regions that are zoned as industrial districts.

Soudelor proved to be the most devastating disaster for the county’s oyster culture in the past 10 years, Yunlin Fishermen’s Association official Tsai Wen-tung (蔡文東) said.

Tsai said that 90 percent of oyster farmers’ offshore floating rafts, 20 percent of horizontal racks and 30 percent of vertical racks were damaged during the storm, causing losses of NT$140 million (US$4.29 million), in addition to the NT$80 million in lost oysters.

Yunlin’s total agricultural losses have hit NT$510 million, and the Council of Agriculture has designated the county as eligible for cash relief.

However, Lee said that out of the 500 oyster farmers in the county, only about 100 hold fishing rights and are therefore eligible for relief measures.

Waters off the coasts of Kouhu (口湖), Sihu (西湖) and Taisi (台西) townships were traditionally oyster farming areas, but were zoned as offshore industrial areas in 1991, which severely restricts fishing and oyster farming in the area, Lee said.

Even though there has been no industrial development in the three townships for 11 years, the Industrial Development Bureau has refused to ease the restriction, thereby excluding most of the county’s oyster farmers from relief measures, Lee said.

“The central government is a dog in the manger because it has not developed the areas after they were designated for industrial use, but yet it refuses to deregulate the areas,” Lee said.

The Yunlin County Government called on the central government to return the sea to local residents, establish a special relief program for oyster farmers without fishing rights and deregulate undeveloped areas designated as industrial districts so that oyster farming in those areas can be legalized.

However, Fisheries Agency Deputy Director Huang Hung-yan (黃鴻燕) said that unauthorized oyster farming in Yunlin’s offshore industrial areas has been a longstanding problem, and oyster culture is legally prohibited in places designated for industrial use.

The redesignation of such areas or reopening of them to fishing rights would require discussions between the central and local governments, while the agency can only act according to the law.

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