Fishermen’s groups cautiously optimistic over deal

Staff writer, with CNA

Fri, Apr 12, 2013 - Page 3

Fishermen’s associations were cautiously optimistic yesterday about Wednesday’s agreement between Taiwan and Japan on fishing rights around the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) in the East China Sea.

Yilan Fishermen Rights’ Association secretary-general Huang Shen-yi said Taiwanese fishermen would benefit from the agreed expansion of their fishing grounds, which will allow about 10 additional fishing boats per day to enter the area.

With the tuna-fishing season starting at the end of this month, the pact will have “some benefits,” Huang said.

Chen Chun-sheng (陳春生), president of the Suao Fishermen Association, said “the agreement was not satisfactory, but acceptable.”

Chen said the previous 16 rounds of talks had produced few tangible results, and this time, the two sides were able to ink a pact to expand the area in which Taiwanese vessels can operate.

“We recognize the government’s sincerity and its great efforts,” Chen said.

Other officials at the Suao Fishermen Association said Suao’s (蘇澳) fishing haul in recent years has been about NT$3 billion (US$100 million) per year.

If Taiwanese fishing boats are allowed within 12 nautical miles (22.2km) of the Diaoyutais, the annual output could increase by at least another NT$1 billion, Chen said.

He said he hoped the government would continue to work to expand Taiwan’s fishing rights in the area.

Under the terms of the agreement, Taiwanese and Japanese boats can operate freely in a 74,000km2 area around the Diaoyutais, according to Fisheries Agency Director-General James Sha (沙志一).

This gives Taiwanese fishermen an additional 4,530km2 in which they can operate without interference by Japanese authorities.

However, under the accord, Taiwanese fishing boats are still not allowed within 12 nautical miles of the Diaoyutais, which are known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan.

The latest round of fishery talks between Taiwan and Japan was held to try to iron out differences on fishing rights in waters near the Diaoyutais, which are claimed by Taiwan, Japan and China.

The surrounding waters have been traditional fishing grounds for Taiwanese fishermen, but they have routinely been chased away from the area by Japan Coast Guard vessels when they venture too close to what Japan sees as its territorial waters.