The Ocean Conservation Administration (OCA) yesterday warned the public against catching protected marine species, after a fisher in Taitung County allegedly killed an endangered humphead wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus).
The humphead wrasse, also known as the Maori fish or Napoleon fish, is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list of threatened species.
The fisher, surnamed Lee (李), on Monday posted on a Line chat room two photographs of himself with a dead humphead wrasse that he had allegedly caught, the Chinese-language Apple Daily reported yesterday.
He could be seen giving the thumbs-up sign in one of the photos, the newspaper said.
Lee left the chat room after his friends told him that his action might be illegal, the newspaper reported.
The OCA in a news release on Tuesday said that it on Monday received reports of the incident from the public, along with screen captures of the photos, adding that it immediately notified the Coast Guard Administration and the Taitung Department of Agriculture to investigate the matter.
Coast guard personnel later on Tuesday found Lee, who said he did catch the fish, but did not know it was a protected species, adding that he had dumped the carcass in the sea, the OCA said.
The species is often found in waters off the coast of southern and southeastern Taiwan, OCA Deputy Director-General Wu Long-jing (吳龍靜) said.
There were estimated to be only four humphead wrasses near Orchid Island (Lanyu, 蘭嶼) before Lee allegedly killed one of them, Wu said.
There are fewer than 30 humphead wrasses in waters near Taiwan, Academia Sinica research fellow Jeng Ming-shiou (鄭明修) said, citing surveys conducted over the past decades.
Judging from the photos shared by the suspect, Taitung Agriculture Department Director Hsu Chia-hao (許家豪) said Lee might have harpooned the fish in its pectoral fin and tail fin.
Following questioning, Lee was directed to the Taitung District Prosecutors’ Office for suspected contraventions of the Wildlife Conservation Act (野生動物保育法), the OCA said.
The prosecutors’ office yesterday said it summoned Lee and another man, surnamed Hsieh (謝), for questioning.
While the animal’s carcass has not been yet found, prosecutors are collecting evidence to build a case against the men, the office said.
People who are caught harassing, abusing, hunting, killing or otherwise utilizing protected wildlife can face a prison term of six months to five years, or a fine of NT$200,000 to NT$1 million (US$7,045 to US$35,224), the OCA said.
Additional reporting by Huang Ming-tang
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