Penghu officials warn over illegal Blue Cave tours

By Liu Yu-ching and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Wed, Mar 29, 2017 - Page 3

The Penghu County Agriculture and Fisheries Bureau on Monday warned against unauthorized entry by boat into Siji Islet’s Blue Cave (西吉嶼藍洞), saying violators run the risk of high fines and imprisonment.

The Blue Cave in South Penghu Marine National Park, known by locals as the Kitchen Basket (tsao lung, 灶籠), is very popular with visitors, leading to a growing number of local fishermen running private boat tours, the bureau said.

The tours have led to numerous complaints about unsightly fishing vessels ruining the natural scenery, the bureau said.

The protected status of the park means that entry by unauthorized vessels is illegal, with penalties of up to NT$20 million (US$662,910) in fines and a five-year prison term, the bureau said.

Boat tours also present a safety risk, the bureau said, citing boats getting into trouble while taking visitors to the cave last year.

The Coast Guard Administration began patrols of Siji Islet, Touchin Islet (頭巾) and Tiehchen Islet (鐵砧) after those reports, the bureau said.

Collapses of the basalt cliff walls in the cave area are also not uncommon, since they were formed naturally by erosion and have uneven surfaces, the bureau said, adding that visitors should avoid getting too close to the cliffs.

“The weather is getting warmer with the arrival of spring. We hope that fishing enthusiasts who love this season will work with us to protect the landscape and the natural environment,” the bureau said.