Thu, Oct 05, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Fisheries Agency urged to protect coastal habitats

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

Environmental protection groups on Tuesday called on the Fisheries Agency to direct more resources to coastal life protection instead of spending most of its budget on distant-water fishing management to curry favor with the European Commission on illegal fishing issues.

Three groups petitioned the Cabinet on the eve of yesterday’s World Animal Day, demanding that the government pay more attention to marine life protection.

“The nation is developing offshore wind farms, but we have not seen a comprehensive plan from the government for the protection of marine ecology,” Matsu Fish Conservation Union chairman Chen Bing-heng (陳秉亨) said.

The population of Taiwanese humpback dolphins is rapidly shrinking, with fewer than 70 living in the waters surrounding Taiwan, Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association chairman Robin Winkler (文魯彬) said, adding that offshore wind farm development might lead to their extinction.

The dolphins are facing five threats: marine and air pollution; reduction of their habitats; noise; and fishing activities, he said.

Nearly half of the agency’s annual budget is directed to distant-water fishing management, as it is trying to have Taiwan removed from the EU’s “yellow card” warning list this year, Oceanus Honors Gaia Association chairman Lin Ai-lung (林愛龍) said.

After receiving the groups’ petition, Executive Yuan Department of Economics, Energy and Agriculture Director Liao Chi-tsung (廖繼宗) said the Bureau of Energy should require offshore wind farm developers to use construction methods that minimize noise.

The Forestry Bureau should disclose the habitats of the dolphins and the Fisheries Agency should update its statistics about fines for fishermen using drift nets, Liao told the groups.

The agency is paying equal attention to coastal and distant-water fishing management, but the latter is better-known, as it attracts the attention of the media, agency Deputy Director-General Huang Hung-yan (黃鴻燕) said.

The agency spends about NT$100 million (US$3.28 million) annually to stop fishermen from using drift nets and help them adopt other fishing methods, Fisheries Regulation Division section chief Shen Chen-chen (沈珍珍) said.

While drift nets are often used in waters with a rocky ocean bed, the agency leaves their regulation to local governments, she said, adding that New Taipei City and Keelung, as well as Pingtung, Taitung and Penghu counties have banned the use of drift nets within 3 nautical miles (5.6km) of the coast.

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