The Ministry of the Interior (MOI) has proposed amendments to the Act on the Exclusive Economic Zone and the Continental Shelf of the Republic of China (中華民國專屬經濟海域及大陸礁層法) that would impose heavier fines and prison terms for illegal sand mining in Taiwan’s coastal waters.
The act stipulates a maximum fine of NT$50 million (US$1.69 million) and up to five years in prison for “whoever willfully damages or harms the natural resources or ecology” of Taiwan’s exclusive economic zone or continental shelf.
Furthermore, “whoever undertakes construction, use, modification, or the dismantling of artificial islands, installations or structures” in Taiwan’s exclusive economic zone or its continental shelf without permission from the government shall be fined between NT$10 million and NT$50 million, the act says.
The proposed amendments would impose a prison term of between one and seven years, along with a maximum fine of NT$80 million, the ministry said on Tuesday.
The proposal was made in response to complaints that Chinese vessels have been illegally extracting sand in the vicinity of the Formosa Banks, Department of Land Administration Deputy Director Wang Cheng-chi (王成機) said.
Calling for government action to protect Taiwan’s maritime resources, the Society for Wildlife and Nature in May said that Chinese ships have dredged more than 100,000 tonnes of sand daily from the shoal over the past few years, which has altered the sand and sediment and poses a catastrophe for local marine ecology.
Should there be no changes, the proposal would be forwarded to the Executive Yuan for further deliberation, Wang said.
Two separate amendments, sponsored by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators Lai Jui-lung (賴瑞隆) and Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲), are being reviewed by the legislature’s finance, foreign affairs and national defense, and internal administration committees.
Lai’s version proposes a fine of between NT$5 million and NT$50 million, while Kuan’s version sets the maximum fine at NT$100 million.
The shoal, which is near the median line of the Taiwan Strait, is a traditional fishing area for Penghu County fishers and a preferred area for marine animal spawning, due to the rich nutrients brought to the area via upwelling.
The Coast Guard Administration (CGA) said that from January to May, it had chased away about 1,200 Chinese sand dredgers.
The CGA early last month detained a Chinese ship — the Hai Hang No. 5679, after finding more than 500 tonnes of sand aboard during an inspection.
The captain, surnamed Xiao (肖), and nine crew members, were indicted by Kaohsiung’s Ciaotou District (橋頭) Prosecutors’ Office for breaching Article 18 of the act.
Additional reporting by CNA
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