The Cabinet yesterday approved draft amendments to two laws aimed at deterring illegal marine dredging in Taiwanese waters by Chinese ships by increasing the penalties to a maximum of seven years in jail, a fine of up to NT$80 million (US$2.77 million) and confiscation of the vessels.
Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) told yesterday’s Cabinet meeting that illegal dredging by Chinese ships has damaged marine ecology in the region, citing the discovery on Sunday that 400 to 500 such vessels were dredging sand off the coast of Matsu between Nangan (南竿) and Juguang (莒光) townships.
Such activities are unacceptable, he said, ordering that Chinese ships found dredging illegally in Taiwanese waters be confiscated, their crew members face trial and the ships, as well as their machinery, be put up for auction, sold or otherwise disposed of promptly.
The Cabinet approved 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) and the Sand and Gravel Excavation Act (土石採取法).
Su urged Executive Yuan ministries and agencies to work with legislative committees to expedite passage of the amendments, and called on the Ministry of Justice, the Ocean Affairs Council and the Ministry of National Defense to step up patrols of dredging hotspots.
The proposed amendment to Item 3, Article 18 of the economic zone act states that vessels found illegally dredging could be taken over for governmental use or subject to other measures within a suitable range of time, Ministry of the Interior Department of Land Administration Director Wang Cheng-chi (王成機) said.
Increasing the length of a prison sentence from the current maximum of five years to seven would be a deterrent, he said.
At present the maximum fine is NT$50 million under that law.
Ministry of Economic Affairs Bureau of Mines Director-General Hsu Jing-wen (徐景文) said that amendments to the sand and gravel excavation act would clearly designate areas covered by the act — including territorial waters as well waters near Kinmen, Matsu and the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島).
The proposed amendments to that act would increase the penalties for violations to match those in the economic zone act, and give the bureau the authority to confiscate equipment, Hsu added.
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