Wed, Jun 08, 2016 - Page 4 News List

Groups want ocean affairs ministry

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

Marine conservationists on Monday called for the establishment of a “ministry of ocean management” to protect fishery resources which they said are on the brink of depletion, ahead of World Ocean Day today.

A coalition of environmental groups called for a specific authority to manage fishing activities and marine conservation amid a series of pollution and poaching incidents.

Marine conservation organization Oceanus Honors Gaia chief executive Lin Ai-lung (林愛龍) said that because of the lack of leadership in marine affairs, the nation has seen an increase in environmental incidents and illegal fishing activities, including two oil spills caused by grounded ships off New Taipei City and Penghu County, a “yellow card” given by the EU over Taiwan’s failure to enforce fishing laws, as well as poaching of marine animals by Taiwanese and Chinese alike.

“Taiwan’s marine conservation is a headless system, because the conservation and management responsibility is distributed across 22 government units. For example, the Environmental Protection Administration does not have a vessel to deal with ocean pollution, while the Coast Guard Administration, which has specialized ships, is not responsible for handling pollution,” Lin said.

While coral and threatened marine species have been illegally harvested in great quantities, none of the government agencies have placed marine conservation at the center of their operations, so the establishment of a “ministry of ocean management” is necessary, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chen Man-li (陳曼麗) said.

A ban on destructive fishing methods was also called for to curb overfishing.

Kuroshio Ocean Education Foundation office manager Lai Wei-jen (賴威任) said an estimated 2,000 to 10,000 dolphins and whales die every year as a result of being caught in fishing gear and nets, while fish cannot be found at some healthy coral reefs due to overfishing.

Scientific studies have estimated that there will be no wild fish left by 2048 if global fishing trends continue at the current pace, Academia Sinica ichthyologist Shao Kwang-tsao (邵廣昭) said.

“Taiwan’s total fish catch has diminished from 1.35 million tonnes in 1990 to 1.1 million tonnes today. The difference may appear slight, but fishermen have to spend more effort to catch fish, while the government has to spend more to subsidize the fishing industry. Fish caught today are also smaller, and many are coarse fish that are not good for consumption and have little economic value,” Shao said.

“Ocean sunfish is internationally identified as a threatened species, but one can find them in seafood restaurants in Taiwan. That says much about the nation’s conservation,” Shao said.

Establishing a sustainable fishing industry and consumer culture is necessary in addition to a competent authority over marine management, he said.

The groups launched an online signature campaign calling for the establishment of a “ministry of ocean management,” and they have collected more than 2,000 signatures in a week, they said.

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