Facing the European Commission’s threat to issue a “red card” against Taiwan for its fishing vessels violating international norms, the Council of Agriculture said it hopes to complete tough legislation by next month to fend off possible sanctions.
Taiwan’s representative office in Brussels has told the government that if no satisfactory improvements have been made in regard to Taiwan’s “illegal, unreported and unregulated” fishing practices in international waters by March next year, a red card could be issued, which would bring trade sanctions.
When the commission issued Taiwan a “yellow card” in October last year, it said 11 steps were needed to improve the Taiwanese fishing fleet’s record.
Deputy Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) said the Executive Yuan has sent proposed amendments to the legislature that includes raising fines as high as NT$45 million (US$1.39 million) for repeat offenders, and he hopes it could clear the legislative floor by next month.
However, part of the proposed amendments have been met with resistance from some lawmakers and some sectors of the fishing industry.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said effective enforcement of the law is another factor the EU will take into account when deciding on its next step.
“We should explain to the European officials that in addition to monetary fines, law-breaking boat owners will also face having their licenses revoked,” Kuan said.
Donggang Fishermen’s Association chief executive Lin Han-chou (林漢丑) said Taiwan must do everything it can to avoid being given a red card because not only would its fish products be affected but also its fishery products, “and import bans may even extend to the United States and Japan.”
Lin said he agrees with the government’s proposal to toughen the law and increase fines, “but the fines should be reasonable.”
If a boat is worth only NT$10 million and the fine is NT$30 million, it would be too much of a burden on the ship’s owner, he said.
Tsai Tien-yu (蔡天裕), a former head of Pingtung County’s Liuchiu Township (琉球) who owns 10 fishing boats, said some law-breaking ships have been banned from deep-sea fishing while others have had their operating licenses revoked.
“As far as I know, very few of Taiwan’s fishing boats working overseas have a record of illegal activities,” Tsai said.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it will try to convince EU officials that Taiwanese fishing boats have made great progress and their overseas practices are now under tight surveillance.
“We will do all we can to keep up our international image and maintain our national interests,” it said in a statement.
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