Oceans around Taiwan threatened by overfishing

NEEDING PROTECTION::The Taiwan Environmental Information Association said catches at coastal fisheries had dropped 42.69% since 2001, and 19.75% offshore

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff Reporter

Tue, Dec 27, 2011 - Page 2

Following three years of studies on the health of Taiwan’s coral reefs, the non-profit Taiwan Environmental Information Association yesterday said the ocean ecology surrounding Taiwan was threatened by overfishing and urged the three presidential candidates to enforce ocean protection policies.

The association said that from studies on the health of Taiwan’s coral reefs done by association volunteers beginning in 2009, it discovered that aside from the condition of coral reefs, a rapid exhaustion of fish in coral reef habitats was common.

Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network East Asia planning director and Penghu Symbiotic Algae Association chairperson Allen Chen (陳昭倫) said indicator fish species and invertebrate species that are edible, such as sweetlips, lobsters and sea urchins, are very scarce, a sign of exhaustion of marine resources caused by overfishing.

“Almost all the edible fish resources in these areas have been caught,” he said, adding that based on data provided by the Council of Agriculture’s Fishery Agency, the annual catch from coastal fisheries last year had dropped 42.69 percent in comparison with the catch in 2001, with a 19.75 percent drop in offshore fisheries.

He said that although the coral cover, the proportion of reef surface covered by live stony coral, over the seven surveyed sites varied, with Green Island (綠島) presenting the highest cover rate, the overall condition was considered “medium,” according to the Reef Check Worldwide organization’s standards.

The association said an agreement was reached at an international conference in 2003, held by the International Union Conservation of Nature, promising to set aside 12 percent of oceans worldwide as marine reserves, but currently less than 6 percent of Taiwan’s ocean area is protected by regulations.

Taiwan Environmental Information Association secretary-general Chen Juei-pin (陳瑞賓) urged the government and the three presidential candidates to set up marine reserves to ensure the sustainable development of the ocean, improve ocean protection and to push for tougher regulations.

He also said the association had sent a letter to all three presidential candidates on Wednesday urging them to recognize the importance of ocean protection, but that so far there have not been any replies.

“We can wait for their replies, but marine life cannot wait anymore. So we hope the government can give us answers as soon as possible,” he said, adding that the association would continue to monitor whether ocean protection policies are being enforced after the Jan. 14 elections.