Wed, Nov 07, 2018 - Page 3 News List

KMT lawmakers, fishers criticize Fisheries Agency

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators and fishers yesterday decried the government’s heavy-handed enforcement of three fisheries laws, which have resulted in fines totaling more than NT$120 million (US$3.9 million) for legal technicalities or accidentally entering another nation’s exclusive economic zone.

Amendments to three laws that govern deep-sea fisheries — the Act for Distant Water Fisheries (遠洋漁業條例), the Fisheries Act (漁業法) and the Act 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) — took effect last year and were aimed at removing a “yellow card” warning the EU handed Taiwan in October 2015 over the nation’s lack of oversight and weak sanctions for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

Speaking at a news conference at the legislature in Taipei, KMT caucus deputy secretary-general Ko Chih-en (柯志恩) accused the Fisheries Agency of acting on political considerations rather than in fishers’ interests when it comes to disputes in the overlap between Taiwan’s and Japan’s exclusive economic zones.

Under a president that “ingratiates herself with Japan,” not only did the agency not defend Taiwanese fishers’ rights, it imposed heavy fines on them, which often totaled NT$500,000 or NT$1 million, Ko said.

The government during a 2013 meeting about the Taiwan-Japan Fisheries Agreement agreed to set a tentative law-enforcement line that delineates the area where Taiwanese can fish.

KMT Legislator Arthur Chen (陳宜民) said the amendments were implemented without any grace period, adding that the NT$124.5 million in fines the Fisheries Agencies has levied on fishers under the amendments had left them desperate.

He criticized the government for not taking a more assertive stance when negotiating with Japan over exclusive economic zones and fishing rights around the Okinotori Atoll, while urging it to take a more accommodative approach when deciding whether to fine fishers.

Fisherman Hung Kuo-chung (洪國鐘) said that his crew accidentally caught a protected hammerhead shark and released it soon afterward, but were still fined NT$1 million because they had not informed the agency.

Moreover, the laws require fishers to inform the agency three days before unloading a catch, inform it again upon unloading a catch and inform it if they want to sell their catch in Japan, he said, adding that people who fail to comply with the rules have been handed steep fines.

He accused the agency of exploiting the law to fine fishers.

The agency should not subject fishers who contravene a legal technicality to large fines, Ko said, adding that some of them do not have good computer skills, which puts them at an disadvantage when filing declarations.

The Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) also does not fit with fishers’ work schedules, which are very different from those of office workers, adding that a dedicated law should be introduced to ensure that fishers do not contravene the act.

Fishermen Self-help Association director-general Wang Hsin-chan (王新展) said many fishers who have been fined have had trouble making ends meet, tearing up as he spoke.

The government’s negotiations with Japan seemed to have only shrunk the area in which Taiwanese fishing boats are allowed to operate, Wang said.

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