The Cabinet on Thursday approved a draft bill to increase the penalties on long-distance ships that engage in illegal fishing, in an effort to prevent possible trade sanctions by the EU.
In addition, the Cabinet approved draft amendments to the Ordinance to Govern Investment in the Operation of Foreign Flag Fishing Vessels (投資經營非我國籍漁船管理條例) and the Fisheries Act (漁業法), which were submitted by the Fisheries Agency of the Council of Agriculture.
The new bill and the amendments are to be sent to the legislature for ratification.
Council Minister Chen Tze-ching (陳志清) said his agency would step up communication with lawmakers and representatives in the fishing industry on the draft legislation.
Premier Simon Chang (張善政) said that he hoped the bill and the amendments would clear the legislative floor as soon as possible.
The draft seeks to impose stiffer penalties for illegal fishing by long-distance fleets, with the aim of preventing possible trade sanctions by the EU and bringing domestic laws in line with international law.
Under the draft legislation, long-distance fishing fleets would also be required to install a vessel monitoring system and a system to report each vessel’s catch.
The draft stipulates that fleets that engage in illegal fishing would be subject to a maximum fine of NT$30 million (US$922,509), which increases to NT$45 million for repeated violations.
The draft is a response to a “yellow card” issued by the European Commission in October last year, which warned that Taiwan risks being identified as an uncooperative nation in the fight against “illegal, unreported and unregulated” fishing.
The warning followed a report by Greenpeace that a Taiwanese fishing vessel, the Shuen De Ching No. 888, was seen illegally harvesting shark fins and throwing finned sharks back into waters near Papua New Guinea.
If the issue is not addressed by the end of March next year, Taiwan risks EU trade sanctions.
In drafting the bill, the Fisheries Agency referred to related fisheries laws in South Korea and the Philippines, two countries that also received yellow cards from the EU.
The English version of the draft was sent to the EU, which said it had no problem with the contents, Chen said.
Among Taiwan’s 20,000 fishing vessels, 1,300 to 1,600 are long-distance fishing boats, the council said.
If the EU imposes trade sanctions against Taiwan, it would cost the nation about NT$1 billion per year, and other nations might follow suit and impose sanctions that would be detrimental to Taiwan’s long-distance fisheries industry, which has an annual output of about NT$50 billion.
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