Tue, Apr 24, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Taiwanese fishers claim EU rules are ‘unreasonable’

Staff writer, with CNA

Local fishers say that the EU has imposed “unreasonable demands” on Taiwan regarding fishing industry protections as the nation seeks to be removed from the European Commission’s warning list for illegal fishing.

“The fishers have a grudge against the EU for demanding that Taiwan observe rules for operators of distant-water fisheries that are stricter than international standards,” Taiwan Tuna Longline Association chairman Ho Shih-chieh (何世杰) said on Sunday.

The complaint came as an EU decision is expected by the end of the month on whether Taiwan has made adequate progress in combating illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing since the European Commission in October 2015 issued the nation a “yellow card” for insufficient cooperation in the fight against IUU fishing.

Last month, EU officials visited Taiwan to review its compliance with EU requirements for improving regulations, regulatory enforcement and management of the nation’s distant-water fishing industry, following a previous inspection trip in October last year.

Ho cited as an example the EU’s demand that vessels should transmit data — including vessel position — recorded in the vessel monitoring system to fishery authorities every hour, regardless of whether purse seine or longline gear is being used.

According to international standards, transmission of system data for purse seine vessels should be every hour, but only every four hours for longline fishing vessels, Ho said, adding that requirements stating that Taiwan is responsible for IUU fishing involving foreign-owned vessels flying Taiwanese flags and that the system data can only be uploaded at designated ports are also unreasonable.

Ho said he suspects that the EU is using the false pretense of environmental protection and the sustainability of marine resources to protect its fishing industry from Asian competition.

It is a misconception that Taiwan operates 1,200 longline fishing fleets and is the world’s largest tuna producer, Ho said, adding that 700 of them are relatively small vessels that weigh less than 100 tonnes.

The fishing capacity of these 700 vessels is nothing compared with the capacity of the commercial fishing vessels owned by nations in Europe and the Americas, he added.

If the EU decides to upgrade the warning to a “red card,” it would entail a ban on the import of Taiwanese fishery products to the EU, resulting in an estimated loss of NT$50 billion to NT$60 billion (US$1.69 billion to US$2.03 billion) and loss of jobs in the fishing industry, the Fisheries Agency said.

The agency aims to improve fishery governance, because international standards for distant-water fishing operations are likely to become ever more rigorous, given that competition for limited marine resources is bound to intensify, it said.

If the EU applies a double standard to Taiwan, the agency would argue strongly for the rights of the local fishing industry, it added.

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