Fisheries Agency draft bill slated

LACK OF TRANSPARENCY::In a meeting of the Legislative Yuan’s Economics Committee, legislators slammed the agency for drafting laws in what they called a ‘black box’ manner

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Mar 17, 2016 - Page 3

The Fisheries Agency yesterday submitted a draft bill to raise the fine for illegal fishing in a bid to have the EU withdraw a “yellow card” it issued to Taiwan over illegal fishing, while legislators criticized the agency for a lack of transparency in making the amendment.

The draft bill, called Regulations on Distant Fisheries (遠洋漁業條例), and a proposed amendment to the Fisheries Act (漁業法), propose raising the maximum fine for illegal fishing, fish laundering and other significant violations to NT$30 million (US$910,470) to deter illegal activities, while subjecting repeat offenders to a NT$45 million fine.

The draft bill and amendment were submitted to the Executive Yuan for approval before being reviewed by the Legislative Yuan, with the legislation hoped to prompt the EU to withdraw a “yellow card” it issued to Taiwan in October last year following the discovery of a Taiwanese ship that violated shark finning laws in international waters.

However, in a meeting of the Legislative Yuan’s Economics Committee, legislators criticized the agency for drafting the laws in a “black box” manner and withholding information from lawmakers.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lai Rui-lung (賴瑞隆) said the EU gave Taiwan six months to propose improvement measures, adding that the agency has kept the Legislative Yuan in the dark about legislation progress in the past six months.

“The EU has monitored Taiwan’s fishing industry for six years, but the agency did nothing about illegal fishing during that period. After Taiwan was given a ‘yellow card,’ the agency delayed the legislation until the last minute to shift the responsibility to legislators,” Lai said, accusing the agency of negligence.

Lai said the draft bill and amendment were revealed on Friday last week during a meeting between fishing groups and local governments, adding the agency refused to give him relevant documents, despite his repeated requests.

“It has never happened before that the Legislative Yuan is totally unaware of the contents of a bill that would have such a dramatic impact. What the agency is doing is shifting the pressure onto the Legislative Yuan,” DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said.

Agency Director Tsay Tzu-yaw (蔡日曜) said the agency had communicated with the EU four times since October last year, adding that it would send 11 improvement measures, including the draft bill and amendments, to the EU for review by the end of this month.

Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Chih-ching (陳志清) said: “The EU has seen Taiwan’s actions and will not give Taiwan a ‘red card.’ We also expect the ‘yellow card’ to be withdrawn.”