Tue, Aug 06, 2019 - Page 2 News List

Groups petition against belt fish export plan

UNSUSTAINABLE:Responsible Fisheries Index founder Hsu Cheng-yu said that directly exporting the fish to China would result in overfishing and local prices would increase

By Chien Hui-ju and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

A poster urging the government to halt plans for directly exporting belt fish to China is pictured in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Chien Hui-ju, Taipei Times

Academics and environmentalists yesterday petitioned the government to halt plans to export belt fish, also known as largehead hairtail, directly to China, and instead prioritize the domestic market.

Currently, the fish must go through customs in Kinmen County as part of the “small three links” policy, before being sent to Xiamen in China.

On July 24, the Fisheries Agency announced that it was planning an initial 14-day trial period during which frozen belt fish would be sent by ship directly to a Chinese port.

A joint statement opposing the plans was issued by Responsible Fisheries Index founder Hsu Cheng-yu (徐承堉), National Ilan University assistant professor Chen Yung-sung (陳永松), National Taiwan Ocean University associate professor Chan Man-se (詹滿色), the Society of Wilderness, the Homemaker’s Union Consumer’s Co-op and the Taiwan Environmental Information Association.

The petition, which calls on the government to halt the plans to guarantee the sustainability of the nation’s fisheries, garnered 3,000 signatures in one day.

Hsu said that direct exports would reduce shipping costs and would result in a large increase in exports.

The government should hold a public hearing and should implement regulations on the quantity of fish that could be sold via direct export to China, he said, adding that the government should prioritize the domestic market.

The quantity of belt fish sold to China has increased rapidly over the past few years, from 36 tonnes in 2015 to 6,525 tonnes in 2017 and to 13,720 tonnes last year, Hsu said.

If the number continues to rise at the same rate it would result in overfishing, he said.

The government has not yet properly investigated the quantity of the fish caught, the amount exported and the size of the domestic market, he said.

Taiwan’s fishers have already seen a drop in the size of their belt fish catches, and the fish might become extinct if the government does not take control of the situation, Hsu said.

China pays less for the fish than the market price in Taiwan, but industry operators prefer to sell to China because it buys in large quantities, he said, adding that if the government does not control the sale of the fish to China the domestic price would increase, he said.

The Fisheries Agency yesterday said it was collecting feedback and would revise its plans afterward.

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