Nation has strictest coral harvesting rules: official

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Tue, Feb 18, 2014 - Page 3

The government enforces the most stringent measures on coral harvesting in the world, which has driven up coral prices in recent years, the Fisheries Agency said at an international conference on Pacific coral in Taipei yesterday.

The two-day conference opened yesterday at the Taipei International Convention Center, with specialists, officials, academics and dealers from more than 20 countries, including the US, Italy and Japan taking part to share their experience on coral management and related research.

Earlier this month, the agency promulgated amendments to the regulations governing coral harvesting, which included allowing coral fishing boats permits to be inherited by a spouse or a relative, or transferred to another business or a foreigner, as well as setting the maximum limit on annual coral hauls at 6 tonnes.

Some of the amendments were questioned by a local environmental group, which said that while China has enforced a ban on coral harvesting, Taiwan’s revised measures are a step backward in marine conservation.

Fisheries Agency Director-General James Sha (沙志一) defended the changes, saying that the new measures included cutting the number of coral harvesting boats from more than 100 to 60 vessels.

Sha added that the stricter controls have been recognized by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

“We enforce the strictest controls in the world,” he said, adding that although China bans coral harvesting, Chinese boats often sneak into Japan’s territorial waters to harvest coral.

“We only allow 60 vessels at most, definitely no more than 60,” agency Deputy Director-General Tsay Tzu-yaw (蔡日耀) said.

Tsay added that since the agency began enforcing strict regulations on coral harvesting in 2009, coral prices have jumped several times from the 2009 levels.

The regulations can help create a more sustainable industry and bring economic benefits, he said.